Favorable cardiovascular health is associated with greater longevity free of cardiovascular disease. Although the prevalence of cardiovascular health decreases with age, less is known about protective factors that promote and preserve it over time. We investigated whether optimism was associated with better cardiovascular health over a 10-year period.
Participants included 3188 Black and White men and women from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. Self-reported optimism was assessed in 2000 (this study’s baseline) with the revised Life Orientation Test. Favorable cardiovascular health was defined by healthy status on five components of cardiovascular functioning that were repeatedly assessed through 2010 either clinically or via self-report (blood pressure, lipids, body mass index, diabetes, and smoking status). Linear mixed-effects models examined whether optimism predicted cardiovascular health over time, adjusting for covariates such as sociodemographic characteristics, health behaviors, health status, and depression diagnosis.
In models adjusting for sociodemographic characteristics, optimism was associated with better cardiovascular health across all time points (β = 0.08, 95% confidence interval = 0.04–0.11, p ≤ .001) but not with rate of change in cardiovascular health. Findings were similar when adjusting for additional covariates. Optimism did not interact significantly with race (p = .85) but did with sex, such that associations seemed stronger for women than for men (p = .03).
Optimism may contribute to establishing future patterns of cardiovascular health in adulthood, but other factors may be more strongly related to how slowly or quickly cardiovascular health deteriorates over time.