To Protect Your Heart, Find Your Life's Purpose

No time to exercise? Too busy focusing on your career? We've all used that excuse, but now there's evidence that if you feel like you've found your life's purpose, your risk of heart disease and stroke is lower. (Probably a good idea, though, to try to exercise, too.)

Researchers at Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai Roosevelt found that a high sense of purpose — defined as a sense of meaning and direction, plus a feeling that life is worth living — is associated with a 23% reduction in death from all causes and a 19% reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, or the need for coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) or a cardiac stenting procedure.

"Developing and refining your sense of purpose could protect your heart health and potentially save your life," said Randy Cohen, lead author of the study, in a press release. "Our study shows there is a strong relationship between having a sense of purpose in life and protection from dying or having a cardiovascular event."

For the study, researchers looked at 10 studies with the data of over 137,000 people to analyze the impact of sense of purpose on death rates and risk of cardiovascular events. Conversely, the meta-analysis also revealed that those with a low sense of purpose are more likely to die or experience cardiovascular episodes.

Past studies have found an association between psychosocial factors — anxiety, for example, or optimism — and heart disease. But this study paves the way for future research to further assess the importance of life purpose in particular as a determinant for health. From there, hopefully we can identify the best way to figure out what we're "meant" to do.

For now, though, if you feel like your life fulfills you, rest easy knowing that you're doing your heart a favor. If not, think of this study as yet another reason to really go after whatever it is you're passionate about.

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