Positively healthy

If you want to be happy for the rest of your life… well, then you can count on having a few extra years under your belt too.

Because that’s just what a new study found. (Straight out of Europe, of course–where they actually value longevity factors outside of what Big Pharma can provide.)

This research identified a link between greater positivity and lower mortality rates in heart disease patients. And, not too surprisingly, regular exercise was the lynchpin in this equation.

In this study, heart patients with greater positive affect–defined here as happy, joyful, excited, content, or enthusiastic feelings–were 42 percent less likely to die of any cause after five years. And they were also nearly 50 percent more likely to have a regular exercise routine than their more negative peers.

This discovery makes perfect sense. Higher rates of mood-related problems like depression and anxiety are more prevalent among people with heart disease. And research has already linked these personality traits to higher risk of cardiac events–and, ultimately, higher mortality rates.

So it’s not surprising that the reverse trend might also hold up. Nor is it a shock that exercise figures in. (After all, it’s one of the most potent mood-boosters there is.)

Ultimately, the message to doctors is clear: If we want our patients to be truly healthy, it’s time to start focusing on the whole picture.

This certainly speaks to my clinical experience. By now, you know how strongly I feel about the healing power of exercise. But when I’m with patients, I’m also fortunate to have the time to be able to discuss the details of their lives, what’s going on, and how it affects their physicality.

It’s something that I cherish a great deal. And I must say, I’m convinced that it helps a lot in my patients’ outcomes.

Health involves many factors. Your experience of your illness is absolutely one of them. That’s why I always remind my patients (and myself, for that matter) that it’s just as easy to be happy as it is to be sad.

We can’t always predict the curveballs that life throws at us. But what you decide to do with those experiences is entirely up to you. So eat right, exercise. And don’t worry–be happy.

It’s more than a cheesy motto. These are words to live by… quite literally.

“Exercise mediates the association between positive affect and 5-year mortality in patients with ischemic heart disease.” Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2013 Sep 1;6(5):559-66.