July 18, 2017
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Pessimism linked to worsening metabolic function in postmenopausal women

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Metabolic function, particularly fasting insulin and insulin resistance, in postmenopausal women worsens with pessimism, study data show.

Future interventions to modify pessimistic attitudes may be effective in reducing the risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, according to the researchers.

Hilary A. Tindle, MD, MPH, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and colleagues evaluated data from the Women’s Health Initiative on 3,443 postmenopausal women (mean age, 62.5 years) to determine the relationship between optimism, pessimism and cynicism and biomarkers of metabolic function.

The Life Orientation Test, Revised (LOT-R) and the Cook-Medley cynicism subscale were used to assess psychological attitudes. At baseline, biomarkers of metabolic function were measured and used to calculate insulin resistance and pancreatic beta-cell activity.

Higher levels of education and income and more favorable health characteristics were reported by participants who endorsed more optimistic attitudes about the future. Obesity was more common in participants who were “most pessimistic” and scored in the highest quartile of cynical hostility compared with participants who were less pessimistic and scored in lower quartiles for cynical hostility.

Metabolic biomarkers were associated with optimism and the optimism (full-scale LOT-R) and pessimism subscales in the unadjusted analyses. The optimism (full-scale LOT-R) and pessimism subscale were associated with fasting insulin, glucose and markers of pancreatic beta-cell activity, and the optimism subscale was associated with insulin resistance. After adjustment, the association between fasting insulin and insulin resistance with pessimism remained significant (P < .0001 for both).

Cynical hostility was associated with fasting insulin and glucose in analyses adjusted for sociodemographics only; however, the associations were no longer significant after adjustment for clinical characteristics.

“Understanding how psychological factors relate to clinically relevant biomarkers elucidates the biological mechanisms by which these psychological traits are associated with health and disease,” the researchers wrote. “Optimism, pessimism and cynical hostility, which form relatively early in life and are associated with the development of CVD risk factors even in younger populations, may represent some of the earliest health risk factors. Preliminary evidence suggests that these traits could be modifiable, and as such, they may be an important target for future preventive interventions, such as promoting greater attainment of ideal cardiac and metabolic health.” – by Amber Cox

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.