A happy heart may be a healthy heart, at least for older people at the risk of developing heart failure.

Researchers followed 6,808 people enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative study of older U.S adults, for four years.

According to their study released Tuesday in Circulation: Heart Failure, higher optimism was associated with a 26 percent lower risk of incident heart failure throughout the follow-up period. Optimism was assessed with a 6-item scoring system looking at how one expects positive outcomes.

In fact, as optimism increased, the risk of developing heart failure decreased. Those with the highest optimism were nearly half as likely to have heart failure as those who were most pessimistic.

A July, 2011, study in Stroke — also using data from the Health and Retirement Study — found a similar effect on reducing the risk of stroke.

“These findings, the first to assess the relationship between optimism-pessimism and heart failure, add to a remarkably consistent recent literature that has linked optimism-pessimism to other cardiovascular outcomes, including myocardial infarction, stroke, and cardiac death,”  according to an editorial by Dr. Alan Rozanski that accompanied the most-recent study.. “These observations provide conclusive evidence for the health benefits of optimism.”

Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition when the heart muscle can’t keep up with its workload to pump enough blood through the body. More than 5.1 million Americans are living with heart failure. Healthcare costs related to the condition are more than $30.7 billion annually. Those numbers are expected to rise considerably, due in part to an aging population and because the risk of heart failure increases with age.

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