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Evidence Shows Optimism Might Lengthen Your Life

By Alan Mozes        
       HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 27, 2019 (HealthDay News) — A sunny outlook on life may do more than make you smile: New research suggests it could also guard against heart attacks, strokes and early death.

In the review of 15 studies that collectively involved almost 230,000 men and women, the findings were remarkably consistent, the study authors added.

“We found that optimists had a 35% lower risk for the most serious complications due to heart disease, compared to pessimists,” said lead author Dr. Alan Rozanski, a professor of cardiology at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City.

That mind-body connection held up across all age groups, said investigators, ranging from teenagers to those in their 90s. That “suggests that optimism may be an asset, regardless of age,” Rozanski noted.

The studies also found the more positive one’s outlook, the less one’s risk for heart trouble or death.

Ten of the studies specifically looked at positivity’s impact on heart health, while nine looked at how a person’s outlook affected their risk of dying from a wide range of illnesses.

Many of the investigations asked basic questions touching on expectations of the future. In response, some participants indicated that they generally felt upbeat despite the uncertainty of what’s to come. Others said they never assume that things will pan out well down the road.

Over time, those who held more positive viewpoints were more likely to remain heart-healthy.

Yet, despite suggesting that “the magnitude of this association is substantial,” Rozanski and his colleagues stressed that the review can’t prove that optimism directly protects against heart disease and premature death.

Still, the team pointed to a whole host of potential reasons why positivity — directly or indirectly — may help stave off illness.

Some of the studies in the review indicated that optimistic people are more adept at problem-solving, better at developing coping mechanisms, and more apt to realize goals. And those are the kind of skills that could drive someone to take a more active interest in monitoring and maintaining their health, the researchers said.

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“Consistent study has shown that optimists have better health habits,” Rozanski noted. “They are more likely to have good diets and exercise,” and they may be less likely to smoke.

“Increasing data also suggests that optimism may have direct biological benefits, whereas pessimism may be health-damaging,” he added. “This biological connection has already been shown for some other psychological risk factors, such as depression.”

Positivity may also work its magic by lowering inflammation and improving metabolism, the authors suggested.

This is not the first study to find such a link. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August found an upbeat view of life boosted the odds of living to a ripe old age.

Looking ahead, Rozanski’s team pointed to the potential for developing new mind-body treatments, likely in the realm of behavioral therapy, designed to cut down on pessimism and boost optimism.

“However, further research will need to assess whether optimism that is enhanced or induced through directed prevention or intervention strategies has similar health benefits versus optimism that is naturally occurring,” the report cautioned.

The findings were published Sept. 27 in the journal JAMA Network Open.

Dr. Jeff Huffman, director of cardiac psychiatry research at Massachusetts General Hospital, cowrote an editorial that accompanied the study.

The review provides “yet more evidence that optimism seems to be an independent predictor of superior cardiac health,” he said.

As to why that is, Huffman agreed that optimism is “associated with more physical activity, healthier diet, and a range of other healthy lifestyle behaviors, and it is likely this association that explains a lot of the benefit.”

But optimism also impacts biological processes, he added. And ultimately, “the mechanism by which optimism leads to better health is likely a combination of biology and behavior.”

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Sources

SOURCES: Alan Rozanski, M.D., professor, cardiology, department of cardiology, Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital, New York City; Jeff Huffman, M.D., director, cardiac psychiatry research, Massachusetts General Hospital, and associate professor, psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Sept. 27, 2019,JAMA Network Open

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Staying Optimistic Might Lengthen Your Life

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Aug. 26, 2019 (HealthDay News) — An upbeat view of life may increase your odds for living to a ripe old age, new research suggests.

The finding stems from a look at optimism and longevity among nearly 70,000 women and 1,400 men. It builds on earlier research linking higher levels of optimism to lower risks of chronic illness and premature death.

“This study took us further by suggesting that optimistic people are more likely to achieve ‘exceptional longevity,’ which we defined as living to age 85 or older,” said study lead author Lewina Lee, a clinical research psychologist with the U.S. National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.

Compared to their least optimistic counterparts, the most optimistic men and women studied were 50% to 70% more likely to reach that advanced milestone, Lee said.

They were also 11% to 15% more likely to live longer overall, the study found.

The findings held up even after accounting for other influences, such as educational background, marital status, friendships, chronic health problems, and depression, Lee said.

Optimism was also powerful predictor of longevity regardless of a person’s habits when it came to tobacco and alcohol use, exercise, eating well or getting routine medical care.

“Most studies have focused on deficits or problems that increase the risk of dying,” Lee noted. “Our study is novel is that we considered the benefits of a psychological asset — optimism — in promoting longevity.”

The study team suggested that the findings could point the way towards new interventions that might foster optimism and thereby extend life, such as meditation and certain psychotherapy programs.

Lee and her colleagues discuss their findings in the Aug. 26 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

They concluded that optimism matters after analyzing data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which focused on women, and the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study, which focused on men.

The women were 58 to 86 years old (average age: 70) when their health habits, overall health and optimistic outlook were first assessed. They were followed for 10 years.

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The men were 41 to 90 years old (average age: 62) when they had a similar assessment and a physical exam in 1986. They were followed for 30 years.

At the end of the tracking periods, researchers found that results for women and men were roughly the same: The more optimistic the individual, the greater the chances for living longer — and the greater the chances for reaching an “exceptional” age.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Debbie Downers are doomed to shorter lives, Lee said. Her team only found an association and not a cause-and-effect link.

“The association between optimism and exceptional longevity was independent of depression,” Lee said. “This suggests that the presence of optimism is more than just the absence of depression,” so that even among those who struggle with depression a little optimism might still work longevity wonders.

Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, said there are many reasons why optimism breeds longevity.

“Optimists experience less stress, because they don’t tend to dwell on negatives and feel more empowered to overcome hurdles,” said Yarrow, who wasn’t involved with the study. “They are less likely to give up, and they bounce back more quickly from problems and setbacks. Stress is a killer and wreaks havoc on our bodies.”

Optimists also are less likely to experience depression, feelings of hopelessness and negativity — factors often linked to poorer health and higher rates of disease, she added.

On top of that, Yarrow said, optimists tend to take better care of themselves and have an easier time making and keeping friends, “a well-documented source of health and longevity.”

She acknowledged that access to money, good food and education and, of course, genetics can also have a big impact on longevity.

But unlike good genes, Yarrow said, “optimism and her powerful sister, gratitude, can be learned.”

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SOURCES: Lewina Lee, Ph.D., clinical research psychologist, U.S. National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, and assistant professor, psychiatry, Boston University School of Medicine; Kit Yarrow, Ph.D., professor emerita, Golden Gate University, San Francisco;Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Aug. 26, 2019

Copyright © 2013-2018 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Adopting a Dog Could Lengthen Your Life

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Here’s to keeping your health on a tight leash: New research suggests that having a dog might boost a single person’s life span.

The study tracked more than 3.4 million Swedes, middle-aged and older, for 12 years. All were free of heart disease at the beginning of the study.

The researchers reported that dog owners who lived alone were 11 percent less likely to die of heart disease and a third less likely to die from any cause, compared with those who lived alone and didn’t have a dog.

The study couldn’t prove cause-and-effect, but its lead researcher said there are many reasons why having a pooch might do a body good.

“We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results,” said Tove Fall, an associate professor in epidemiology at Uppsala University in Sweden.

“Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner,” she said in a university news release.

A person’s “bacterial microbiome” consists of the trillions of “good” microbes living within the body that help keep it healthy.

Experts in the United States agreed that the findings made sense.

“Stress relief through companionship has an inherent benefit to people’s overall health, so it is not surprising that dog owners display a lower risk of heart disease,” said Dr. Satjit Bhusri, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Dr. Gisele Wolf-Klein directs geriatric care at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She agreed that Fido or Rover can force their humans to get more active.

“The responsibilities associated with dog ownership impose mandatory daily exercise — a schedule which cannot be impacted by adverse weather conditions, personal commitments or mood swings,” Wolf-Klein said.

That may be especially important for single folks, said study junior author Mwenya Mubanga, a graduate student at Uppsala. Prior research has shown that living alone raises the risk for heart disease.

“Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households,” Mubanga said in the news release.

Wolf-Klein believes that whatever the reasons behind the health benefit shown in the study, adopting a furry companion from a nearby shelter might be just what the doctor ordered.

“The findings of the largest ever investigation of the association between dog-ownership and human health should encourage all of us to add a four-legged friend in our family circle,” she said.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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Sources

SOURCES: Satjit Bhusri, M.D., cardiologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Gisele Wolf-Klein, M.D., director, geriatric education, Northwell Health, Great Neck, N.Y.; Uppsala University, news release, Nov. 17, 2017

Copyright © 2013-2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Nuts May Lengthen Your Life, Study Suggests

MONDAY, March 2, 2015 (HealthDay) — Eating nuts, including peanuts and peanut butter, may help you live longer, a new study suggests.

Researchers looked at the diets of more than 200,000 people in both the United States and China, and found nut consumption was linked with a lower risk of premature death from heart disease and other causes.

The findings lend support to previous evidence on the heart-healthy benefits of nuts, said study researcher Dr. Xiao-Ou Shu, associate director of global health and professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

However, Shu said, the finding is “based on an observational study,” so the researchers cannot prove cause-and-effect with certainty. “That said, the totality of evidence from nutrition and health research suggests that nut and peanut consumption can be considered a healthy lifestyle choice,” she said.

The study is published online March 2 in JAMA Internal Medicine and was funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Shu’s team asked men and women about their intake of nuts, including peanuts and peanut butter. Peanuts are often less expensive than other nuts, an important feature for the many low-income men and women who were studied, Shu said.

The group who ate the most nuts, peanuts and peanut butter reduced their risk of early death from heart disease and all other causes by about 20 percent, compared to the group eating the least, she said.

“Because peanuts [which do not grow on trees] are much less expensive than tree nuts, as well as more widely available to people of all races and all socioeconomic backgrounds, our study finding suggests that increasing peanut consumption may provide a potentially cost-efficient approach to improving cardiovascular health,” Shu said.

How many peanuts should one eat, exactly? The U.S. group in the top 20 percent of peanut consumption ate more than 18 grams a day, or about 0.63 ounces — roughly 2 tablespoons of shelled peanuts, Shu said.

The researchers followed the men and women for various time periods, ranging from a median of 5.4 years to more than 12. The researchers looked for an effect on nut intake and death from cancer and diabetes, but did not find one.

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As U.S. Population Ages, ER Visits Will Lengthen

MONDAY July 8, 2013 — While the number of visits to emergency rooms will not rise due to United States’ aging population, ER visits will last longer and there will be an increase in hospitalizations between now and 2050, according to a new study.

“With U.S. emergency care characterized as ‘at the breaking point,’ we wanted to study how the aging of the U.S. population would affect the demand for emergency department services and hospitalizations in the coming decades,” lead author Dr. Daniel Pallin, director of research in the department of emergency medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said in a hospital news release.

The researchers were surprised to find their analysis showed that the number of ER visits would increase at the same rate — not higher — as the population increased. However, the length of time that patients spend in ERs will rise 10 percent faster than population growth, and hospital admissions from the ER will rise 23 percent faster.

“Our analysis predicts that the total amount of time spent by patients in [emergency departments] across the country will increase 1.1 times faster than population growth as the population ages,” Pallin said. “This means that the United States will need 10 percent more ED resources per capita than available today.”

He added that with ER visits and the number of hospitalizations expected to increase, the process of moving patients from the ER into the hospital needs to be as efficient as possible.

The study appears in the July issue of the journal Health Affairs.

More information

The American College of Emergency Physicians explains when you should go to the emergency department.

Posted: July 2013

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Low-Cal Diets Kept Monkeys Healthier, But Didn’t Lengthen Lives

WEDNESDAY Aug. 29, 2012 — Cutting calories can lead to a number of health benefits, from better metabolism to reduced diabetes and cancer rates, and stronger immune function, according to a new study in monkeys.

The long-term study did not, however, support the notion that calorie restriction is a fountain of youth.

Over the past 70 years, researchers have described how eating fewer calories means living longer lives, at least for animals with shorter life spans to start with, such as mice and rats.

In the new study on calorie restriction in primates, which are more closely related to humans, researchers compared the health and longevity of more than 100 monkeys on diets that either supplied all the recommended daily calories (the “control” group) or about 25 percent fewer calories.

The animals that had their calories cut did not survive any longer, although they were more likely to stave off diabetes and have improved metabolism. Monkeys that started the calorie-restricted diet when they were juveniles or adolescents also gained protection from cancer and a boost in their immune response.

“I don’t think we are contradicting the dogma of calorie restriction. Our study is not the direct opposite, saying ‘No, it doesn’t work.’ It shows that it works differently,” said Julie Mattison, a staff scientist at the Laboratory of Experimental Gerontology at the U.S. National Institute on Aging (NIA) in Dickerson, Md., and lead author of the study.

The study was published Aug. 29 in the online edition of Nature.

Previous studies have reported that calorie-restricted monkeys live longer, although differences in the diets used in different studies could be important, Mattison noted.

For example, a study done at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center gave both its low-calorie and “control” monkeys a diet that was higher in sugar than the one used in the current NIA study. (Both studies supplemented the calorie-restricted monkeys’ diets to meet the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals.)

While the control monkeys in the Wisconsin study had all-you-can-eat meals, the NIA study gave its control group set portions.

These differences in diet plan “give us two different answers that are pretty valuable to have,” Mattison said. She added that her study could capture the effects of calorie restriction in monkeys — and perhaps humans, too — that are already eating a balanced and moderate diet, while the Wisconsin study suggests the possible outcome of scaling back calorie intake if you overeat or have a poorer diet.

In the current study, Mattison and her colleagues began calorie restriction in a group of 86 young monkeys, between 1 and 14 years of age, and in 35 older monkeys between 16 and 23 years. The average lifespan of this type of monkey, called rhesus macaque, in captivity is about 27 years.

Although all of the calorie-restricted monkeys had lower rates of diabetes and weighed less than their control counterparts, some health outcomes varied by age.

While the young calorie-restricted monkeys had lower rates of cancer and seemed to have a more robust immune system, calorie restriction in older monkeys led to improvements in metabolic health. These animals had lower levels of triglycerides, or fat in their blood, and at least for the old calorie-restricted males, lower levels of cholesterol and glucose. (In the young animals, these markers were low to begin with, Mattison noted.)

However these health strides in calorie-restricted monkeys were not enough to affect rates of death. Common causes of death were cardiovascular disease, endometriosis in females and cancer, Mattison said.

The rate of heart disease appeared to be slightly higher in young calorie-restricted animals, although the rate is low and it is too soon to know what it means, Mattison said.

Commenting on the research, Leonard Guarente, director of the Glenn Laboratory for the Science of Aging at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: “The evidence all told that calorie restriction improves health even in primates is a pretty good case.”

However, Guarente does not advocate calorie restriction for people beyond just eating a healthy diet and avoiding overeating. “I am told it is not fun and if you don’t do it properly, you could do harm.”

There is still a lot to learn about how to safely reap the benefits of calorie restriction, Mattison said. “At what level of calorie restriction and at what age are you benefiting one system and sacrificing another?”

Half of the animals in the young group are still alive, and it is possible that the team will end up seeing an improvement in longevity associated with a calorie-restricted regimen in these survivors, Mattison said. The Wisconsin study only tested calorie restriction in young monkeys, between 7 and 14 years of age.

Scientists note that research with animals often fails to provide similar results in humans.

More information

For more about aging and health, visit the U.S. National Institute on Aging.

Posted: August 2012

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Following Heart-Healthy Behaviors May Lengthen Your Life

SATURDAY March 17, 2012 — People who follow seven recommended cardiovascular health behaviors are much less likely to die than those who follow few or none of the behaviors, according to a study that included nearly 45,000 U.S. adults.

However, the researchers also found that few adults follow every cardiovascular health behavior recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA), which include: not smoking; eating a healthy diet; having normal cholesterol, blood glucose and total cholesterol levels; being physically active and having normal blood pressure.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It kills more than 800,000 people a year and accounts for about one in three deaths, with estimated annual direct and overall costs of $ 273 billion and $ 444 billion, respectively, according to the researchers.

They looked at 44,959 adults, aged 20 and older, using data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-94, 1999-2004 and 2005-10) and a linked database of deaths.

Only a few adults followed all seven recommended health behaviors — 2 percent in 1988-94 and 1.2 percent in 2005-10. Those most likely to adhere to a greater number of recommended health behaviors included younger people, women, whites and those with higher education levels.

After 14.5 years of follow-up, those who followed six or more of the health behaviors had a 51 percent lower risk of all-cause death, a 76 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, and a 70 percent lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease, compared to those who followed one or fewer of the health behaviors.

In addition, people who followed a greater number of the health behaviors had a lower risk of death from cancer, according to lead researcher Quanhe Yang, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues.

They also found evidence suggesting that following the recommended health behaviors might offer greater protection against premature death from cardiovascular disease among people under age 60.

“As diabetes, obesity and sedentary lifestyle are on the rise, it is crucial that we establish and reinforce these parameters in every individual,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women and heart disease at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and a spokeswoman for the AHA. “With the American Heart Association’s goal to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease by 20 percent by the year 2020, these health metrics are critical in determining the best course of action by both patients and doctors to prevent heart disease.”

The study appears online Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, to coincide with its presentation at an American Heart Association meeting.

There are many ways to improve the cardiovascular health of Americans, according to an accompanying editorial by Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“Despite the apparent difficulties in achieving the goal, there is much to be optimistic about, and opportunities abound for physicians, policy makers, and consumers to support improvements in cardiovascular health. Continued focus through the health care system on meeting primary and secondary prevention targets is critically important, so that individuals at risk can take one step forward from poor to intermediate cardiovascular health,” Lloyd-Jones wrote in a journal news release.

“Advocacy will be needed for new public health and social policies to tilt the playing field toward healthier choices, so more individuals can move from intermediate to ideal levels or maintain ideal cardiovascular health,” Lloyd-Jones added. “The debate over this year’s farm bill, which will set policy for years to come, represents an opportunity for advocacy for cardiovascular health and a healthier food supply for all. Efforts to reduce sodium in the food supply are ongoing on multiple fronts.”

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health outlines how to reduce heart risks.

Posted: March 2012

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