Optimism helps protect against risk of stroke, a new study suggests.

The study included 6,044 adults aged 50 and older who self-rated their health and optimism on a 16-point scale. They were followed for two years.

Optimism is the expectation that more good things, rather than bad, will happen. 

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Participants in the study rated themselves for health and optimism. It appears that those with a positive outlook take steps to promote their health, reducing stroke risk. ((Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters))

Each point increase in optimism was associated with a 0.90 times lower risk for stroke, after adjusting for age, U.S. psychologists found.

"Optimism may play an important role in protecting against stroke among older adults," Eric Kim, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan and his co-authors concluded in Thursday's online issue of the journal Stroke.

Over the two-year followup period, there were 88 strokes, the researchers found.

"Our work suggests that people who expect the best things in life actively take steps to promote health," Kim said.

The self-reported stroke history and limited followup were limitations of the study.

Previously, a sunny attitude has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease and a healthier immune system.

The association between optimism and reduced risk of stroke remained after adjusting for other factors such as smoking, alcohol use, race, gender, marital status, blood pressure, chronic illness, mental illness, body mass index and level of physical activity.