In Part 1, I brought attention to many of the universal human conflicts that we all struggle with, how they may disrupt and create turmoil in our inner world, and the consequences that these have directly on our health.
In Part 2, I discussed both particular as well as general guides on the issues of nutrition, weight reduction, and exercise, and what needs to be done to truly impact your physical health in general and your cardiovascular health in particular.
Part 3 concludes that there is more to it than that. Living long and living well requires purposeful tasks, some accommodation to self-understanding, striving, and sense of purpose, and equally important, how do you get along with others? What is your sense of "relatedness" to others?
But, you also have to be lucky!
Here's a little story: I took care of an old fellow for over 22 years. When we met, he had just survived a cardiac arrest while jogging, and he had had a heart attack. He had a coronary bypass operation, also surgery for an implantable cardioverter /defibrillator, and eventually 2 further stents. For over 18 years, he lived well, stayed thin, ate responsibly, continued to exercise, took the "right medications" and enjoyed life. One day not too long ago he came to see me. He was now 88. He looked ill. He had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and he had already begun a chemotherapy program that was making him very ill. He was struggling and we talked about a number of things, and he asked me what my thoughts were.
I said, "Jerry, this is the curse of having had a good cardiologist!"
He laughed and we both realized that we are all going to end up with something that makes us mortal! Having done this for over 35 years now, I have come to appreciate that this life we have is the only one that we have got, and it is so important to try and (as well as to) live it the best we can.
What might be some of the other factors that can help people live life well?
Do you think there is an importance to education?
There is a lot of data on this. People with greater than 16 years of education have longer mean life spans than people with less than 12 years. For example, in women, Caucasians by 10.4 years, African Americans by 6.5 years , Hispanics by 2.9 years. In men, Caucasians by 12.9 years, African Americans by 9.7 years, Hispanics by 5.5 years.
"Education exerts its direct beneficial effect on health through adoption of healthier lifestyles, better ability to cope with stress, more effective management of chronic diseases...the indirect effects of education through access to more privileged social position, better paying jobs, higher income..."(Moeller, P. US News and World Report, 8/16/12)
What are the effects of marriage on health?
Here is a synthesis of recent research evidence published by the US Dept. of Health and Human Services (06/2007):
* Marriage has become an increasingly important topic in academic and policy research. A burgeoning literature suggests that marriage may have a wide range of benefits, including improvements in individuals' economic well- being, mental and physical health, and the well-being of their children...
* Health behaviors: Reviewing behaviors that have well-documented connections with physical health outcomes: alcohol and drug use, smoking, weight and exercise.
* Health Care access, use and costs: Examining the link between marriage and 3 main health care outcomes: 1) health insurance status, 2) health care use, 3) total health care costs.
* Mental Health: examining the effects of marital status and the presence of depression.
One of the really interesting things I came across, in preparing this lecture was The Longevity Project. It was initiated by Louis Terman in 1921, and carried forward by Howard Friedman and Leslie Martin. I encourage everyone to read it. Terman tracked 1500 boys and girls, aged 10 to 12. He interviewed them and their families, both growing up, as well into adulthood, later in life, and even after their deaths. Extensive interviews and questionnaires inquiring into so many aspects of life. These folks were followed through education, career, relationships, marriage, sexuality and even included assessment of death certificates.
Themes that were examined included:
*What type of disposition do you have? Are you cheerful and optimistic? Are you prudent, persistent, and planful? Are you a pessimistic bleak- brooder?
Who do you think tended to have the most numbers for longevity? Should I tell you, or would you like to read the book. Ok. I’ll tell you! -The prudent planners did the best! Perhaps not what you might have thought, but the cheerful optimists tended to be less disciplined and focused; less goal oriented; more career problems; less relationship stability; perhaps more narcissistic; smoked more, drank more.
The prudent planners tended to set up better lives; more goal oriented; better careers, better organized home lives, more stable families... also the prudent planners were not necessarily prudish. Many of them acknowledged great closeness and love and the enjoyment of wholesome sex as part of their life experience.
* What about job stress? Well, there are different types of stress in all categories of life.
Is it just a job, clocking in from 8 to 5, not enjoying what you do? Perhaps working for a boss, or others who are disrespectful, difficult, abusive... all grinding away at your sense of being trapped, depressed, very deep rotting stress. OR, do you have a career that challenges and fulfills you, gives you purpose and adds to your identity: a different type of stress! You still may work hard, be up all night, have deadlines, have difficult tasks, etc. but this may be more of life nurturing stress.
* What about marriage, which I discussed earlier? Is it a really good marriage, an okay marriage, or a bad marriage? On the one side is the nurturing of the soul and on the other, is the grinding down of the soul.
* What about sex? How well mated are you and your spouse emotionally and sexually? Score: "very badly" to "no two could be more perfectly mated".
Don't forget this was a longitudinal study from the early to late 20th century: most of it before birth control, the sexual revolution, and civil rights.
* What about exercise? Again this was written before the study, science, and commitment of exercise and physical fitness. Interestingly, the most lucky people in terms of longevity were not big exercisers. They tended not to jog, go to the gym, obsess about the number of miles, at what speed, intensity, frequency etc.
They tended to be active, enjoying what they were doing: Walking, hiking, swimming, gardening, dancing, finding pleasure with others, and with hobbies that kept their bodies moving.
Finally, though many people do well at being alone, and are not lonely, those who are lonely, either by being alone, or as well, with someone in an unhappy relationship, tend to be the ones who suffer more.
A bleak existential philosopher named Anatole France, (he's French) said: "It is not customary to love what one has."
Pretty sad statement, don't you think?
Another statement about relationships-that to me is more pertinent-as stated by psychologist , Michael Kogutek: " If you're not working on it, it's not working!"
Another psychologist, Helen Fisher, a couples’ therapist, gave this advice in her book "Why We Love" (2004):
* Commit. Listen "actively" to your partner. Ask questions. Give answers. APPRECIATE.
* Stay attractive. Keep growing intellectually.
* Include him/her. Give him/her privacy. Be honest and trustworthy.
* Tell your mate what you need.
* Accept his/her shortcomings. Mind your manners.
* Exercise your sense of humor.
* Respect him. Respect her. Compromise. Argue constructively.
* Don't assume the relationship will last forever. Build it one day at a time...
My wife and I have a philosophy: Never give up and remember there is no moving forward in a relationship by going backward. Be happy, be well, and don’t let your life or your relationships become stagnant. Step out of your comfort zone and discover something new! (except zip-lining. I won’t do zip-lining!)
This concludes the 3 Part essay on "The Not so Simple Tidbits to a Healthy Lifestyle". Yes, there are many resources to go to. There are many resources to go to that might be helpful, but I also wanted to convey that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is way more complicated than instructional reading. I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have enjoyed presenting it!