When pessimism wins 15. June 2007 William Davis (3) When I first met Hank, I immediately sensed it: anger, hostility, fear. His heart scan score of 685 just made it worse.He didn't want to be there talking to me. His wife was giving him a hard time. Work was a constant source of irritation. The receptionist at the front desk screwed up his paperwork. Our office charges were too much.In short, Hank was a pessimist. A bad one.All the nutrition information out there is bunk. Only he knew how he should eat right. It's stupid to take a lot of fish oil. "You want me to grow gills?"Among the parameters we use in the Track Your Plaque program is blood pressure during exercise, which provides a surrogate measure of blood pressure during emotional stress, anxiety, etc. "No, I don't need that. I already exercise." No amount of justification could change his mind. "A guy at work had a stress test. They said everything was fine, then Bang! He drops dead. What good is that?"Hank did go along with a few pieces of advice.A repeat heart scan 12 months after the first: 870, a 27% per year rate of increase. That's about what would happen if Hank had done nothing, had taken no action to try and stop or reduce his heart scan score.I don't know if Hank will ever succeed in dropping his score. In fact, I suspect that he will fail, meaning that plaque will grow and he will eventually, perhaps in a year, two or three, require several stents, heart bypass, or have a heart attack. In other words, Hank's pessimism is a self-fulfilling phenomenon: If he believes he will fail, he will. If he believes the world is a rotten place, it is.Is it possible to "cure" someone like Hank of his deeply-rooted pessimistic attitudes? I don't know of any easy solutions for someone with attitudes as deeply-ingrained as Hank's. (See my prior post, "Cure for pessimism?" at http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html.)I believe it does help to make someone aware of their attitudes and that it does indeed exert ill health-effects--if they will believe it. But this is a very tough nut to crack.