Happy, Healthy Hearts

Second in a series of posts recognizing American Heart Month

By Lynne Braun

Have you noticed that people who have a positive attitude and are generally happy are much easier to spend time with? Have you noticed that when you are happy, you accomplish more, things seem to go your way, and you generally feel better?

A couple of recent studies found that people who are happy and optimistic have less heart disease. These were individuals who are generally positive about life and see the glass as half full instead of half empty. In the most recent study, higher levels of life satisfaction were associated with a 13 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease. Satisfaction with one’s job, family, sex and self seemed to be the most important for heart disease protection.

As a nurse practitioner, I help my patients prevent heart disease through making healthy food choices, regular exercise, good blood pressure and cholesterol control. But I also try to learn about their mood and feelings of well-being. I often ask about hobbies, daily activities, friends and family, pets and what they like to do for fun. On several occasions I have recommended volunteer work to people. Personally, I think helping others improves one’s mood and is very satisfying. One of my physician partners recently “prescribed” a dog for a patient who was sad and lonely.

Now we know that being happy is important for our heart health.

Related post:

Lynne T. Braun, PhD, CNP, FAHA, is a nurse practitioner in the Preventive Cardiology Center and the Heart Center for Women and a professor in the Department of Adult Health Nursing in the Rush College of Nursing. She’s one of several experts at Rush speaking at “Take Your Health to Heart,” a free event on Saturday, Feb. 11. You can register at (888) 352-RUSH.

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