Gratitude may protect the heart, study finds

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A recent study suggests that gratitude, the trait of appreciating the good in the world, could have a positive impact on cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of acute myocardial infarction (heart attack).

The research, conducted on a sample of 912 participants, reveals that individuals with a higher predisposition to gratitude were less likely to suffer a heart attack.

The Significance of Cardiovascular Health

In the United States alone, approximately 660,000 individuals experience a heart attack for the first time each year, and heart disease is a leading cause of death, accounting for 1 in 7 fatalities.

With the increasing rate of heart attacks, it is imperative to explore cost-effective interventions and policies to meet the United Nations’ goal of reducing premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by a third by 2030.

Gratitude as a Positive Psychological Trait

Gratitude, as a psychological trait, involves recognizing and appreciating the positive aspects of life. It has gained attention as a potential area for low-cost intervention to improve cardiovascular health.

Recent research suggests that positive psychological constructs like gratitude, along with optimism, having a sense of purpose in life, and positive thinking, can influence cardiovascular health and modulate the body’s response to acute stress.

As part of a longitudinal study supported by the BIAL Foundation, researchers from the University of Maynooth and the University of Limerick in Ireland, including Brian Leavy, Brenda H. O’Connell, and Deirdre O’Shea, investigated the relationship between trait gratitude and acute myocardial infarction (heart attack).

The study included 912 participants aged 35 to 86, with 32.9% having hypertension and 9.6% having diabetes.

Participants underwent standardized cardiovascular stress testing and were re-assessed an average of 6.7 years later.

The study, titled “Heart rate reactivity mediates the relationship between trait gratitude and acute myocardial infarction,” was published in Biological Psychology.

Key Findings and Implications

The study uncovered a significant link between trait gratitude and heart health. Heart rate reactivity was identified as a potential mechanism through which gratitude could reduce the risk of heart attacks.

Higher trait gratitude was associated with a lower likelihood of experiencing a heart attack 6.7 years later, even after controlling for factors such as age, sex, body mass index (BMI), education, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

According to Brian Leavy, the study’s results reinforce the idea that positive emotions, including gratitude, play a role in promoting better health outcomes, particularly in cardiovascular health.

These findings suggest that cultivating gratitude could be a valuable strategy for enhancing heart health and reducing the risk of heart attacks.

In conclusion, this research highlights the potential benefits of gratitude as a protective factor against heart disease.

Gratitude, as a positive psychological trait, may offer a simple and effective way to support cardiovascular health and contribute to overall well-being.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about how eating eggs can help reduce heart disease risk, and herbal supplements could harm your heart rhythm.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about how drinking milk affects risks of heart disease and cancer, and results showing DASH diet is good for your blood pressure, and vegetable diet may reduce heart disease risk.

The research findings can be found in Biological Psychology.

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