Having a purpose in life has been linked with psychological well-being before. Researchers have now found that it also can also help extend lifespans by protecting the heart.

In a study presented at the American Heart Association EPI/Lifestyle 2015 Sessions, researchers led by a team from Mount Sinai Roosevelt and Mount Sinai St. Luke's have determined that having a goal in life lowers risks of stroke and heart disease. Having purpose in life is defined as having a sense of direction and meaning as well as the feeling that it is worth being alive. According to the study, those with high sense of purpose are 23 percent less likely to die from whatever cause or ailment and have 19 percent less risk of stroke, heart attack or needing cardiac stenting or coronary artery bypass surgery.

"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," said Randy Cohen, M.D., lead author for the study and a preventive cardiologist at Mount Sinai.

He added that simply developing and making the effort to refine one's sense of purpose could help in improving heart health and ultimately save a life. Caring for one's self then goes beyond simply eating right and getting enough exercise. Improving overall health now also entails assessing purpose in life. If a purpose in life is absent, an individual must take the necessary action to work towards figuring out a life goal as this is important to general well-being.

For the study, researchers assessed 10 studies relevant to the topic, reviewing data from over 137,000 people to determine the impact that having a sense of purpose has on death rates as well as cardiovascular risk. A lot of the studies have associated heart disease with psychosocial factors, including the negative ones like depression and anxiety. Positive factors include social support and optimism.

Alan Rozanski, M.D., wellness and prevention programs director from Mount Sinai and a co-author for the study, said that their research should aid future studies in further assessing how important having a life purpose is as a factor that determines well-being and realizing the impact that it carries.

Every 34 seconds, a person in the United States suffers a heart attack. Every minute, one succumbs to a heart-related event. Coronary disease is the most common of heart diseases, killing almost 380,000 people each year.

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