December 2012

Pay It Forward

I wrote this blog a year ago, and I think it warrants repeating. Here goes!

We are living in tumultuous times. We have so many things that tend to pop up and cause worry. Finances, health, emotional and family problems are all common issues. Many people start to get a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. This impacts their health causing pain, disease, fatigue and depression. I care for many patients where this is the case.

In trying to help them, I have found something that works. That thing is becoming a helper. It costs no money and it improves their health by boosting the immune system and improving brain function. Doing something for others is the key to feeling better.

Studies have found that those who give of themselves experience joy and happiness. It can be something as simple as volunteering for the SMART program and reading to children or working at a food bank. The hospitals and many clinics welcome volunteers. For those who want to donate money there are infinite worthy causes.

People who help others have been studied. Researchers have found that they experience a surge in their endorphins similar to the high that runners experience. Giving to others in need decreases the intensity and awareness of pain, relieves stress, and activates positive emotions. All these things help to improve health. The results of a study done in 2700 men in Michigan found that those men who worked as regular volunteers had a two and a half times lower death rate than those who did not.

Amazing things happen when one goes from being the one who is helped to being the helper. It is nothing short of a miracle. Over and over I see people heal and feel good about themselves and what they are doing. It is easy to get wrapped up in our lives and ourselves, but stepping out of it and realizing that we each have something valuable to give can be good for us as well as others.

Anger Can Kill

The election is over. Some of us are happy. However, it is clear watching the Sunday news talk shows that there are others who are very angry. If I am describing you, it is important to turn that around quickly so that it does not start to eat away at you. Anger especially if it is hostile can cause serious illness.

A recent study of over 5600 people in Italy found that those who scored highest on the anger and hostility scale had a 40% increase in thickening of their artery walls than those with the lowest score. Thickened arteries increase the chance of having a stroke or heart attack. Another study found that those with hostile anger and no evidence of heart disease initially were 19% more likely to develop heart disease later on than their mellower counterparts.

We know that longstanding anger can increase the risk of coronary disease, but what about a single bout of intense anger that can occur with road rage or when your candidate loses the election? A study done in Israel found that those who experienced intense anger had a 14-fold increase in stroke within two hours of the emotional incident. In a Missouri emergency room study of 2500 patients, 500 patients had an episode of severe anger prior to their injuries; the worse the anger, the more severe the injury.

If you are finding yourself angry all of the time, what can you do?
You can get out and exercise. That is a great stress reducer. Meditation can also be helpful. If you find that it is difficult to relax and let your feelings go, it may be time to see a therapist or look into anger management classes.

One of the more successful forms of therapy for anger is cognitive behavioral therapy. It is a structured therapy with a limited number of sessions that can help patients to take negative thoughts and emotions and act in a more positive way.

Anger can destroy you if you let it. Ask yourself this; is it worth dying for something you cannot change that is causing you to be irritated, upset and angry? If the answer is “No,” it is time to go and get some help today.


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