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Optimism is associated with better cardiovascular health, yet little is known about the underlying mechanisms and whether protective relationships are consistently observed across diverse groups. This study examines optimism's association with lipid profiles over time and separately among Black and White men and women.


Data were from 3,206 middle-aged adults in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. Optimism was measured in 2000–2001 using the Revised Life Orientation Test. Triglyceride, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol measurements were obtained at 5-year intervals through 2015–2016. Linear mixed models evaluated relationships between optimism and lipids, adjusting for covariates, including prebaseline lipids. Subgroup differences were examined using interaction terms and stratification. All analyses were conducted in 2020.


Higher optimism was associated with both lower baseline total cholesterol (β= −2.33, 95% CI= −4.31, −0.36) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (β= −1.93, 95% CI= −3.65, −0.21) and a more rapid incremental increase in both markers over time (total cholesterol: β=0.09, 95% CI=0.00, 0.18; low-density lipoprotein cholesterol: β=0.09, 95% CI=0.01, 0.16). No associations were apparent with baseline triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or changes in either lipid over time. Tests for interaction only found evidence of heterogeneous associations with baseline triglyceride levels, but stratified models hinted at stronger protective associations with baseline levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol among White women.


Optimism may help diverse individuals establish healthy total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels before midlife. Although associations were largely consistent across subgroups, stronger associations among White men and White women highlight a need to study optimism's health impact in diverse samples.


NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, volume 62, issue 3, in 2022.

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