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Optimism May Lower Stroke Risk
Date:7/21/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 21 (HealthDay News) -- The more optimistic you are, the lower your risk of having a stroke, a new study suggests.

"Optimism protects against stroke," said researcher Eric Kim, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan. While it is not cause-and-effect link, Kim and his colleagues did find a significant association.

The finding is published in the July 21 online issue of Stroke.

The possible stroke protection lengthens the list of health benefits tied to being optimistic, Kim said. Already, various studies have found more optimistic people have a healthier immune system, faster wound healing, a lower risk of heart disease and other benefits, he said.

For the new study, Kim and his colleagues looked at data from the Health and Retirement Study. This is a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults over the age of 50.

The team looked at the results of standard optimism tests for 6,044 men and women. All were free of stroke at the study's start. The optimism score was on a 16-point scale. The participants self-rated their health, and the team followed them for two years. During the follow-up period, 88 cases of stroke occurred.

After adjusting for age, each unit increase in their optimism score reduced stroke risk about 9 percent, Kim said.

The researchers also adjusted for other factors such as smoking, alcohol use, race, gender, marital status, blood pressure, chronic illness, mental illness, body mass index and level of physical activity. They found the association between optimism and reduced risk of stroke remained robust.

How to explain the association? One possibility is that those who expect the best things in life take steps to promote their health, Kim said.

Another possibility is a biological effect, he said. "In a similar way that depression can impact functioning, we think optimism can as well,"
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