A fully developed science and practice of positive cardiovascular health could bring to millions of Americans, within the decade from 2010 to 2020, longer, healthier, and higher quality lives, better recovery from acute cardiovascular (CVD) events, and lower health care costs. This prognosis for the nation is potentially achievable through synergy between the emerging field of positive health and the promising new commitments of two highly influential forces for change – the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2020 Impact Goal, and the federal government’s Healthy People 2020 heart disease and stroke prevention objectives.
The Positive Cardiovascular Health project is currently examining existing data (e.g., NHANES, CARDIA, CPP, and published literature) to describe the epidemiology of cardiovascular health (CVH) and, where possible, its relation to psychological factors. Of particular interest is the course of change in CVH metrics (tobacco smoke exposure, healthy diet score, physical activity, BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose) from childhood through adolescence into and throughout adulthood. In addition to the illustrations above, investigation is in progress toward analysis of data from Project HeartBeat!, the Bogalusa Heart Study, other studies within the International Childhood Cohort Consortium (i3C), and the Healthy Passages Study. The overall hypothesis is that key indicators of positive CVH show deterioration from childhood and adolescence on and that demonstration of their trajectories of change will contribute importantly to design and evaluation of candidate positive health interventions.
There is great need for new and intensified intervention approaches to improve CVH for both adults and children. At this point, it has been determined that the best course was to develop a trial of positive psychology interventions to sustain or promote optimism in childhood and adolescence with promotion and preservation of ideal CVH metrics as the outcome. In addition to its experimental outcome, such a trial would afford the opportunity to design longitudinal data collection to meet the need for prospective analysis of subjective variables as predictors of CVH status noted above.