That old Bobby McFerrin song, ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’ wasn’t just a cheerful little ditty — turns out it might have been good medical advice, too..

Researchers have found happier people have a significantly reduced risk of strokes and heart disease.

The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a review of more than 200 studies and discovered optimism and positive emotions could provide protection against cardiovascular disease, and even slow the progression of the condition in those who already have it.

Happier people also tend to have healthier habits, including exercise, a balanced diet and sufficient sleep, so researchers said those factors likely play a role as well — but even when they were removed from the equation, the link between optimism and better heart health remained.

Pointing out that previous studies have focused on how stress can harm health rather than how happiness can help it, Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said, “Although this study didn’t look at the effects of stress, it does confirm what we already know … psychological well-being is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, just like staying active and eating healthily.”

Professor Laura Kubzansky, a lead author of the study, added, “These findings suggest that an emphasis on bolstering psychological strengths rather than simply mitigating psychological deficits may improve cardiovascular health.”

[BBC]