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Optimism and cardiovascular health among African Americans in the Jackson Heart Study

High optimism was associated with ideal composite cardiovascular health.

Highly optimistic African Americans had ideal physical activity levels and diet.

Pessimistic participants had lower intermediate and ideal cardiovascular health.

Optimistic participants older than 55 had ideal BP and cardiovascular health.

This study examined the associations between positive optimistic orientation and LS7 among African Americans.

Using exam 1 data (2000–2004) from the Jackson Heart Study, we examined cross-sectional associations of optimism (in tertiles) with LS7 components [smoking, physical activity, diet, body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose] and a composite LS7 score (classified as poor, intermediate, ideal) among 4734 African Americans free of cardiovascular disease.

Multivariable prevalence regression was used to estimate prevalence ratios (PR, 95% confidence interval-CI) of intermediate and ideal (vs. poor) individual LS7 components and composite LS7 score by optimism levels, adjusting for demographics, socioeconomic status, and depressive symptoms. For LS7 components with low prevalence, we estimated odds ratios.

A greater percentage of participants with high vs. low optimism were younger, female, high SES, and not depressed. After full covariate adjustment, the prevalence ratio of ideal (vs. poor) composite LS7 score was 1.24 for participants who reported high (vs. low) optimism (95% CI 1.09–1.42) at exam 1.

Higher levels of optimism were also associated with greater prevalence of ideal (vs. poor) physical activity and smoking.

Promoting positive optimistic orientation may be an important step toward increasing the likelihood of achieving optimal cardiovascular health among African Americans.


Optimism, a sense of purpose and feeling in control are a recipe for better heart health among Black adults, even in neighborhoods where heart disease and stroke are more common, a new study shows.

Researchers looked into how psychosocial well-being, or resilience, affected health. They found that in neighborhoods with high rates of people having or dying from heart disease or stroke, Black adults with higher resilience scores had a 12.5% lower rate of cardiovascular disease than those with lower resilience.

Living in a neighborhood with fewer or limited socioeconomic resources is recognized as a social determinant of health, the conditions in which people are born and live that could impact a person's risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Almost everything we know about Black Americans and their health focuses on deficits, yet we really need to begin to identify strengths," one of the study's principal investigators, Tené T. Lewis, said in a news release. She is a clinical psychologist and associate professor of epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta. "Understanding which strengths matter most for Black Americans – and under which contexts – will allow us to develop the most appropriate and applicable public health interventions for this group."

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