Optimism reduces risk of stroke, said a new research report in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.  The study surveyed 6044 adults over 50 and asked them to rate their level of optimism according to a 16 point scale.  After adjusting for age, each additional point decreased risk of acute stroke 9 percent, the study found.

The researchers also adjusted for factors like smoking, alcohol use, race, gender, marital status, blood pressure, chronic illness, mental illness, body mass index and level of physical activity. Even when these factors were accounted for, researchers found that the association between optimism and reduced risk of stroke remained strong.

Our work suggests that people who expect the best things in life actively take steps to promote health, said Eric Kim, study lead
author and a clinical psychology doctoral student at the University of Michigan.  Optimism may play an important role in protecting against stroke among older adults, he added.

Past studied have found a direct correlation between optimism and heart and immune system health.  Study in the past has associated an optimistic attitude with healthier heart and stronger immune systems.

A biological effect is also possible.   In a similar way that depression can impact functioning, we think optimism can as well, he said.

Kim said, however, that a limitation of the study was that the follow-up period was only two years.

During the follow-up period, 88 cases of stroke occurred.

Kim also noted that optimism can be learned.   Optimism isn't just the lack of anxiety or depression. Someone who seeks help for either anxiety or depression might be lifted from a negative 10 or so on a scale back to zero or neutral, he said.