The virtue of gratitude is good for the health of a human being's heart, research shows.
This new information was the result of a study conducted by Paul Mills, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine on 186 men and women. Aged an average of 66, they all had a history of heart disorder.

That was part of his decades-old research to see if man's behavior in any way influences the health of his heart.

Members of his target group were asked to answer a set of questions rating how grateful they felt for the people, places or things in their lives.

It turned out that more grateful people were the healthier among them. "They had less depressed mood, slept better and had more energy," says Mills.

Also, blood tests indicated that inflammation was at lower levels among those who were grateful — an indication of better heart health.

40 patients were subjected to a follow-up study to look even more closely at gratitude, testing them for heart disease and noted biological indications of heart disease such as inflammation and heart rhythm. Then he asked half of the patients to keep a journal most days of the week and write about two or three things they were grateful for.

People wrote about everything, from appreciating children to being grateful for spouses, friends, pets, travel, jobs and even good food.

After two months, Mills retested all 40 patients and found health benefits for the patients who wrote in their journals. Inflammation levels were reduced and heart rhythm improved. And when he compared their heart disease risk before and after journal writing, there was a decrease in risk after two months of writing in their journals. The results of Mills' study are yet to be published.

A positive mental attitude is good for your heart. It fends off depression, stress and anxiety, a major factor that can increase the risk of heart disease, says Mills, who isn't sure exactly how gratitude helps the heart.

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