The following is excerpted from an online article posted by ScienceDaily.
Scientists have known for years that a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) can be lowered with lifestyle changes such as modifying diet, exercise, alcohol, and tobacco use. Now Anand Chockalingam and Sharan Srinivas at the University of Missouri demonstrate in a new study that a long-term association also exists between an adolescent’s psychological well-being and their risk of CVD as an adult.
Specifically, Chockalingam, a professor of clinical medicine, and Srinivas, an assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering, have found that people who are more optimistic or positive when they are adolescents can lower their chances of being in the high-risk category for CVD as an adult.
The research team analyzed data from study participants involved with the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health). Chockalingam said the database served as a rich source of information for their study.
“The Add Health database meticulously collected data from over 20,000 adolescents when they were about 15 years of age, and followed up every few years afterward with repeated surveys of several hundred health aspects for the same group of children,” Chockalingam said. “This gives us a unique window into the lifetime risk and correlation between various social, economic, psychological and genetic health determinants.”
“Here, we are recognizing the role of the environment and lifestyle in heart disease,” said, Chockalingam, who is also a cardiologist with MU Health Care. “Some prior research has shown that more than 80% of all heart attacks can be prevented with a few simple lifestyle interventions at any point in the individual’s life. Although a heart attack may occur at the age of 55, the underlying buildup of plaque or atherosclerosis starts much earlier, often in the teenage years. By exploring healthy habits and connecting with optimistic peers in the impressionable teenage years, it becomes intuitive to sustain a good lifestyle.”
Chockalingam believes this study emphasizes the value of optimism in an adolescent’s life.
“Adolescents are simultaneously understanding the world as well as their own inner nature and mindset,” Chockalingam said. “Therefore, parents and other caregivers have a substantial role in the lifetime resilience and outlook of children. The biggest legacy that anyone can pass on for subsequent generations is optimism.”
“Adolescent psychological well-being and adulthood cardiovascular disease risk: longitudinal association and implications for care quality management,” was published in Benchmarking: An International Journal. Kavin Anand, an undergraduate student at Stanford University, also contributed to this work.