Pessimism Deadly for Heart Patients?
Outlook Affects Survival, Study Shows, So Look on the Bright Side
WebMD News Archive
The Impact of Stress continued...
Researchers conducted personality profiles on 327 healthy people to
determine if they were more inclined to exhibit positive or negative emotions.
They then conducted tests designed to assess the study participants'
physiological responses to stress.
People identified as being more positive were found to have significantly
lower increases in blood pressure during stress
than people who were negative.
They also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol within 30 minutes
of waking -- a time in which levels tend to be high.
"It's not just that negative emotions are harmful," lead researcher
Beverly H. Brummett, PhD, tells WebMD. "There seems to be something about
the experience of having more positive emotions. They seem to act as a buffer
against bad health outcomes."
Brummett says interventions like meditation, behavioral therapy, and regular exercise may help people with naturally gloomy dispositions
change their outlook.
But cardiologist Donald LaVan, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania, is not
LaVan, who is a spokesman for the American Heart Association, tells WebMD
that very soon after the introduction of heart
bypass surgery, cardiologists began to recognize that more optimistic
patients fared better in terms of recovery and even survival.
This recognition led to the advent of the Zipper Club, a volunteer group
made up of former heart surgery patients who help current patients deal with
the emotional aspects of their illness.
LaVan says studies like the ones presented at the Baltimore meeting help
advance the understanding of how emotions affect health.
"The conclusions are not too surprising, but the question becomes, 'Can
you do anything to change someone's attitude?'" he says. "Maybe you can
to some degree, but my clinical experience tells me that if a patient is walking around with a big black cloud over his head
there's not much you can do about it."