Many studies have linked depression with heart disease and recent studies have suggested that optimism can protect women from heart problems. Researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School looked into the links between hopelessness and stroke risk. They studied 559 women with an average age of 50 who had no clinical signs of heart disease, such as high blood pressure. They measured the women's levels of hopelessness and depression and took ultrasound pictures of them to measure the thickening of their neck arteries. Thickening of the neck arteries is associated with deposits of plaque within them - atherosclerosis - which is a predictor of stroke and subsequent heart attack. The study found that the women who scored highly for hopelessness had thicker neck arteries - a difference that was significant even after adjusting for other risk factors such as age, race, income, heart-disease risk factors and depression.
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