Now Viewing: Heart disease

Introducing a New Way to Measure Health Care Quality

Apr 18, 2013, 8:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

A Pioneering Way to Measure Health Care Quality

In this video, Helen Darling of The National Business Group on Health explains how employers will benefit from the Global Cardiovascular Risk (GCVR) score, a new quality improvement tool aimed at reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

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A Quiet Revolution in Cardiovascular Health

Apr 11, 2013, 2:00 PM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Darwin Labarthe

Dr. Darwin Labarthe, Positive Health researcher and former director of the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recently wrote an essay about the shift in the field of cardiology to focus on building cardiovascular health—beyond just preventing heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular events. Labarthe is part of an increasing number of experts in the health and health care communities who are focusing on health assets—strengths that can contribute to a healthier, longer life. This new framework is increasingly referred to as Positive Health, founded by Dr. Martin Seligman, Pioneer grantee and director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Below, Labarthe explains this shift, which he considers revolutionary, and places it in historical context.

By Darwin Labarthe, MD, MPH, PhD

Public health has seen three distinct revolutions. The first, more than a century ago, addressed communicable diseases. The second was heralded by the 1979 launch of Healthy People, the United States’ science-based initiative. Healthy People shifted the focus of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (now Health and Human Services) from its longstanding emphasis on disease prevention to health promotion, defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health.” Finally, in 1986, WHO’s Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion triggered what some consider the “wellness revolution,” emphasizing that health was “a resource for everyday life, not the objective of living.” In other words, it advanced the notion that health was about more than the absence of disease, or staying aliveit was about thriving.

In my essay, I wrote about a current shift in focus from cardiovascular disease to cardiovascular health. I would posit that this may portend a broader fourth revolution: a “positive health” revolution.

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Happiness is Hot

Apr 30, 2012, 9:15 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Paul Tarini Paul Tarini

Happiness is gaining currency today, particularly in relationship to health and medicine. That’s what we’ve been hearing ever since Harvard School of Public Health researchers Julia K. Boehm and Laura Kubzansky published their report “The Heart’s Content: The Association Between Positive Psychological Well-Being and Cardiovascular Health” in the Psychological Bulletin, under a grant from Pioneer. This is the first study of its kind to look closely at how positive psychological well-being—including happiness and optimism—plays a role in heart health.

The story was indeed hot – gaining attention from USA Today, The Huffington Post, TIME’s Healthland blog, WebMD, The New York Times’ Well Blog,,,,, and hundreds more – and being shared throughout social networks and on the web.

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New Evidence Continues to Build the Field of Positive Health

Apr 17, 2012, 4:10 AM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Paul Tarini Paul Tarini

Today, the Psychological Bulletin published research by Julia K. Boehm and Laura Kubzansky from the Harvard School of Public Health suggesting that positive psychological well-being – such as life purpose, positive emotion, life satisfaction, happiness and optimism – can help protect against and slow the progression of heart disease.

Prior research in this area has focused on how risk factors like anxiety and depression are associated with cardiovascular disease. But this study is the first of its kind to consider how a health asset –psychological well-being – plays a role in heart health.

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Life Purpose May Help Reduce Heart Attack Risk

Mar 21, 2012, 10:29 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Evidence continues to emerge that our psyche influences heart health.

In a new study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers working under a Pioneer Portfolio grant found that having a sense of purpose in life may help protect older adults with coronary heart disease from heart attacks. The article, “Purpose in Life and Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction among Older U.S. Adults with Coronary Heart Disease: A Two-year Follow-up,” comes from researchers at the University of Michigan and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,500 older adults with coronary heart disease and followed up after two years to investigate the association between the occurrence of a heart attack and the degree to which participants had a sense of purpose in their lives, which is typically conceptualized as a person’s sense of directedness and meaning. The study found a significantly reduced risk of heart attack among participants who reported a higher sense of meaning, regardless of socio-demographic differences. Each unit increase in purpose was associated with a 27 percent reduction in the likelihood of a myocardial infarction.

This finding is notable because adults with coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among Americans, are five to seven times more likely to experience a heart attack. Most research focuses on preventive and risk factors contributing to coronary heart disease, and not on resilience factors that help promote health and longevity. The study flows from our work in Positive Health, an emerging concept that explores whether people have health assets that can be strengthened and lead to a healthier life. In contrast, traditional medicine focuses on health risk factors for disease and treatment if it occurs.

In addition to life purpose, the study investigated the association of other positive and negative psychological factors, including optimism, positive affect, anxiety, cynical hostility, and depression with risk of experiencing a heart attack. The study found that all these factors were significantly associated with myocardial infarction rates, but the sense of meaning in one’s life exhibited a protective effect on cardiovascular health above and beyond the presence of these other factors.

Researchers also noted that when people have a strong feeling of meaning in their lives, their will to live may encourage heart health-promoting behaviors, such as exercising, healthy eating, adhering to medical advice, and abstaining from excessive alcohol consumption or smoking.  

Learn more about our work in Positive Health.