Happiness: the fourth leg of heart health

He was dressed causally in jeans, a loosely collared shirt and a near perfect tan, as if it was happily acquired outdoors, not in a tanning booth.

This Monday morning on GMA, Dan Buettner, a member of the crazed ultra-endurance cycling fraternity sat before millions of viewers, with the perfectly coiffed George Stephanopoulus, and proclaimed the tenets of happiness.  As if they were previously unknown.

Since heart disease is most often related to inflamed arteries, sticky platelets and adrenaline-sensitive rogue cardiac cells, it seems the soothing-ness of happiness is a highly pertinent topic. Along with good food, good movement, and good sleep, being happy forms the fourth leg of heart health.

Mr Buettner is accumulating fame and fortune pointing out the obvious. Of this I am a fan.  Like good doctors, he is providing simple messages.

Here is a sampler of some of his advice:

On being happy at work:  He says to make sure you have a work buddy—a best friend. Cultivating healthy relationships at work makes us happier.  Cardiologists and general surgeons take this to heart.  Wink.

Since a common complaint about work is the commute, he suggests living close to work. A 2 mile commute through a city park is better than a 2 hour criterium-in-a-car. Regularly shouting to yourself, about the unfocused driver ahead, “Shoot that gap, idiot,” probaly isn’t that good for one’s arteries.

On socializing: And this one is a shocker: Mr Buettner recommends socializing seven hours per day. In this realm, health-care workers are in a sweet-spot. This should be great news to current nursing and medical students.  Moreover, the young should be happier–as they are capable of doubling their socializing time by ‘e-socializing’ at the same time as they socialize in person.

On picking friends; ‘Friending’ happy people is best.  Like the REM hit, Shiny Happy People…holding hands, laughing, singing, spreading love around, probably counters the signing of pre-authorization forms, the ‘talking’ to cubicle people and the farce of quality measures where everyone reaches 100% by placing a sticker in a chart, signifying that some core measure was done.  Oops, that wasn’t very friendly.

On neighborhoods: Mr Buettner suggests living in a neighborhood with sidewalks. Those with jobs devoid of significant socializing will need sidewalks to make their daily quota. It’s funny how atrial fibrillation and coronary disease easily penetrate the security measures of gated neighborhoods.

On money matters: It seems that those who save, pay down debt, and live within their means are happier than those who consume. Thoreau said this too, but he didn’t seem all that shiny or happy—just wise.  Isn’t he saying, “Be careful what you own or it will own you.”  Isn’t that as obvious as don’t smoke or over-eat?

To women, on picking a mate: He suggests women are happier with men who are more oriented to family than riches. No comment needed here.

To those who love pets: (He is a best-seller for a reason.)  Dog ownership makes one happier. “There is something about petting a dog,” he says. Last week, upon entering the patient’s room, the yippie dog almost got loose on the cardiac ward.  He was a certified therapy dog, I was told, as if I missed that journal article.  (The hospital rocks, who knew that dogs were MRSA-free.)

On liking yourself:  He suggests building a personal shrine in your home. A place where you can post pictures, diplomas, and awards. “Hey, don’t throw that third place Ohio Valley Cyclocross plaque away.”  A shrine to yourself; he didn’t say start a blog, did he?

Like living heart-healthy, living a ‘happy’ life requires seeing, and then doing the obvious.

Unfortunately, in this era of much, contentment is often well camouflaged.

In aiding others pick a better mate, in highlighting sidewalks over gates, in encouraging collegiality at work, and in promoting Thoreau-istic living, Mr Buettner helps the fight against heart disease.  This should make him happy and heart healthy.

As long as he doesn’t get AF from those 15,000 miles rides.

JMM

2 comments

  1. John – Solid advice. These types of reminders help keep me grounded. Or closer to grounded. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This advice is generally good but life being what it is we are all touched by illness, unhappiness and tragedy at times and so are our friends. I try to be supportive for my friends and spend time with them even when they are not feeling happy.

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