Good Cheer for a Strong Heart

July 25, 2013

Image of fast-paced walking We know that depression can have serious negative effects on your health, but did you know that maintaining a cheerful disposition is actually good for you? A new study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that cheerful patients are significantly less likely to develop coronary artery disease. For the study, researchers examined data from more than 7,400 Americans and found that being relaxed, energized and satisfied with life reduced the risk of heart attack and other serious heart problems by as much as 50 percent. The research used two studies. The first study, GeneSTAR, is a 25-year Johns Hopkins project designed to determine the roots of heart disease in people with a family history of coronary disease (CAD). The study includes information about 1,483 healthy siblings of people who had coronary events before the age of 60; they were tracked for five to 25 years. It's important to note that siblings of people with early-onset coronary artery disease are twice as likely of developing the disease than people with no familial history of CAD. As part of the study, participants filled out well-being surveys and received a score that measured cheerful mood, level of concern about health, whether they were relaxed or anxious, energy levels and satisfaction with life for an average 12 years. Two hundred and eight coronary events occurred in this sibling group. However, researchers found that participants’ feelings of positive well-being was associated with a one-third reduction in coronary events. Surprisingly, those with highest risk for a coronary event actually had close to a 50 percent reduction! Researchers then looked at related information for the general population using data from 5,992 participants in the first National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which found 1,226 coronary events over an average 16-year time span. In this group the risk of a coronary event was reduced by 13 percent in participants with cheerful natures. Some of us just weren't born with a particularly cheerful nature or may be going through a rough period. In that case, what do you do? Actually, there is a lot you can do to turn on the sunny side of your nature. It starts with your diet!
  • Eat food rich in vitamin B12 and folic acid. Vitamin B12 and folic acid support a healthy central nervous system, and may help prevent mood disorders and dementia. A recent study from Japan confirmed a connection between higher food intake of folate and a lower incidence of depression. Get your folic acid from beans and greens and vitamin B12 from meats, fish, poultry, and dairy.
  • It's summer, go for fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are brimming with nutrients and antioxidant phytochemicals. One study found that eating two more servings of fruits and vegetables a day is not only associated with an 11% higher likelihood of good functional health, but people who them feel better about their health.
  • Be sure you're eating selenium. Selenium acts like an antioxidant by reducing the oxidative stress in the brain that is associated with some cases of mild to moderate depression in the seniors. Whole grains are an excellent source of selenium, it's also found in beans , nuts and seeds, and seafood.
  • Eat fish. Studies have shown that people who eat fish several times a week have lower risks of having symptoms of depression, especially fatty fish that is high in omega-3 acids like salmon, herring, sardines and tuna.
  • Be sure to get enough vitamin D. A number of recent studies have indicated that low levels of vitamin D may cause higher incidences of PMS, seasonal affective disorder,  mood disorders, and depression. Very few foods contain vitamin D although it is found in fatty fish (salmon, tuna, and mackerel), beef liver, cheese and egg yolks, Take a walk! The sun helps our bodies synthesize and regulate vitamin D,  wear sun block to protect against skin damage.
It's also important to reduce foods high in saturated fats and limit alcohol intake. Give it a try, you'll not only be healthier, your feelings of well-being will soar!

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