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It’s long been known that a positive attitude can affect your health and longevity, but a recent study suggests that even those suffering from heart disease can improve their chances of survival by staying positive.

Researchers at Penn State University followed more than 1,000 people with heart disease over a period of five years and found that those participants who maintained a positive attitude were more likely than their negative counterparts to exercise, take their medications, enjoy healthy sleep patterns, and avoid smoking.

“We found that positive emotions are associated with a range of long-term health habits, which are important for reducing the risk of future heart problems and death,” said Nancy Sin, a postdoctoral fellow at Penn State’s Center for Healthy Aging, in a statement released by the university.

Results of the study were published in the October 2 issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

Sin and her research team suggested a number of reasons why a positive attitude might contribute to healthier habits: greater motivation and persistence, higher levels of confidence, and a greater ability to adjust their health goals and cope with stress and setbacks.

For more on the power of positive psychology, see “Happy Lessons” in our July/August 2005 issue.

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