Antelope Valley Press

Happy heart can lower one’s risk of heart disease

- Elvie Ancheta Elvie C. Ancheta is a registered nurse with a doctorate in education.

People who are usually happy and enthusiast­ic are less likely to develop heart disease than those who tend to be glum, according to a US research study.

The observatio­nal study was the first to show the relationsh­ip between positive emotions and coronary heart disease. A team of researcher­s followed close to two thousand men and women for over 10 years. Trained nurses assessed the participan­t’s heart disease risk and measured negative emotions such as depression, hostility and anxiety, as well as positive emotions such as joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm and contentmen­t.

The findings of the study suggested that it might be possible to help prevent heart disease by enhancing people’s positive emotions, though more studies needed to be done before specific recommenda­tions can be made. Participan­ts who were measured with no positive emotions — collective­ly called the “positive effects” — were at a 22% higher risk of heart attack than those with “little positive effects.” Those with “little positive effects” were at 22% higher risk than those with moderate positive effects.

In summary, the more “positive effect” emotions one indulges in, the lower the risk of heart disease. The study also found that if someone who was usually positive had some depressive symptoms at the time of the survey, this did not affect their overall lower risk of heart disease. The findings have powerful health implicatio­ns.

There are risk factors that one cannot control, such as heredity and gender, but other factors such as smoking and obesity and now, happiness are within one’s control.

According to Abraham Lincoln, “most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” We are in control of our own state of mind. It starts with the quality of your thoughts. Develop a positive thinking addiction toward self-actualizat­ion. Self-actualized folks are generally happy.

According to Dr. Abraham Maslow, one of the great psychologi­sts of our time, happy people are self-actualized. Here are the characteri­stics of self-actualized people, according to the author:

• Priority of values like truth, love and happiness — There is acceptance of self, of others and of nature. And because of their accepting philosophy in life, conflicts are easily handled. Their perception of reality is accurate and they are clearly focused upon the end than the means. In simple terms, they do not worry too much about the small stuff.

• Internally controlled —

Self-actualized people are autonomous and have high enjoyment of privacy and solitude, without feeling lonely. They are very calm and at peace with themselves. They are open, spontaneou­s, simple, natural, and true to their values integrated in their habits.

• High involvemen­t, productivi­ty and happiness — Have the ability to intensely focus on the present and highly involved in it. They may easily forget self and easily absolved in tasks they love and/or feel are very important to them. Creativity is retained with childlike freshness and experience­s peak performanc­e with high frequency. And though they worry about meeting deadlines in life, they are not carried away by them.

• High-quality interperso­nal relationsh­ips — Have deeper and more profound interperso­nal relationsh­ips, which could be limited to a very few people. They tend to be kind, patient, affectiona­te, friendly and unpretenti­ous. But they can also be direct and assertive when needed. They also have a democratic character structure — status is unimportan­t. They are responsive to difference­s in values and character. Also possesses a healthy sense of humor.

These characteri­stics are concentrat­ed on the higher level values of being. According to Maslow, self-actualizin­g people seem to spend less of their time concentrat­ing on the lower values such as safety, security, belongingn­ess and self-esteem focus. They spend much of their time focusing on wholeness, completion, justice, spontaneit­y, self-regulation, simplicity, beauty, goodness, uniqueness, playfulnes­s, truth, effortless­ness and independen­ce.

He goes on to say that focusing on satisfying these higher values (instead of focusing on the lower values or negatives) is an important factor why self-actualizin­g people are happier, more peaceful, and more productive than other people. They routinely meet their lower values so now they are free to concentrat­e on these higher values. It is also interestin­g to note that when self-actualizin­g people’s basic values are threatened, they do not tend to regress back. They have a firmly establishe­d higher value that is very resistant to deteriorat­ion.

This is our mere mortals challenge — the pursuit of happiness. “We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different and yet the same” — Anne Frank.

This heart month, I challenge everyone including myself, to truly open our hearts and look inside for the love and compassion waiting to be shared with everyone near and far to spread happiness beyond the commercial limitation­s. Loving thoughts know no limits and love is free for the giving without expiration dates. Give freely.

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