According to a study this week, optimism is good for the heart.

Among a group of 545 Dutch men aged 64 to 84, the most optimistic had roughly a 50 percent lower risk of cardiovascular death over 15 years of follow-up, according to the study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Previous research has suggested being optimistic boosts overall physical health and lowers the risk of death from all causes. A positive attitude also has been shown to help patients who suffer from heart disease caused by narrowed arteries.

The new study measured patients’ level of optimism about their lives by having them respond to statements like “I do not look forward to what lies ahead for me in the years to come” and “My days seem to be passing by slowly,” or “I am still full of plans.”

“Optimism can be estimated easily and is stable over long periods,” though it does tend to decrease with age, said lead researcher Erik Giltay of the Institute of Mental Health in Deft, the Netherlands.

On a scale of zero to three, with three being most optimistic, the average scores in the study fell from 1.5 in 1985 to 1.3 in 2000.

Higher scores were associated with being younger, being better educated, living with others, having better health, and doing more physical activity.

“It is yet to be established whether interventions aimed at improving an older individual’s level of optimism may reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality,” he added.

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