Being happy, enthusiastic and contented is the best antidote to heart disease, says a major new study.

The study authors believe that it is the first to show such an independent relationship between positive emotions and coronary heart disease.

Karina Davidson, professor of medicine and psychiatry at the Columbia University Medical Centre (CUMC-New York), who led the study, said it did suggest it might be possible to help avert heart disease by enhancing positive emotions.

However, she cautioned that it would be premature to make clinical recommendations without clinical trials to investigate the findings further.

“We desperately need rigorous clinical trials in this area. If the trials support our findings, then these results will be incredibly important in describing specifically what clinicians and/or patients could do to improve health,” said Davidson.

Over a period of 10 years, Davidson and her colleagues followed 1,739 healthy adults (862 men and 877 women) who were participating in the 1995 Nova Scotia Health Survey.

Positive affect is defined as the experience of pleasurable emotions such as joy, happiness, excitement, enthusiasm and contentment. These feelings can be transient, but they are usually stable and trait-like, particularly in adulthood.

Davidson said: “Participants with no positive affect were at a 22 percent higher risk of ischaemic heart disease (heart attack or angina) than those with a little positive affect, who were themselves at 22 percent higher risk than those with moderate positive affect.

“We 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,” said Davidson, according to a CUMC release.

These findings were published in the European Heart Journal.

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