Heart Health

Happiness Protects Your Heart

Did you know that March 20, 2017 was the official International Day of Happiness around the world?

Did you know that March 20, 2017 was the official International Day of Happiness around the world? There has been a profound shift in attitudes across the world, and we, as a people, are beginning to recognize that progress isn’t only about growing an economy…about money. Progress is also about increasing our happiness and wellbeing.

This paradigm shift can even be found on the global political stage. In 2011, the UN recognized happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and began working towards an approach to promote happiness across the globe as a symbol of progress. In honor of this resolution, March 20th has been established as the annual International Day of Happiness.

As a doctor, I consider this an incredible sign! I firmly believe regardless of whether it’s the physical heart causing the symptoms, the condition of the spiritual heart must be addressed before complete healing can occur. We see the physical manifestations of poor spiritual health all the time. Maybe you’re stressed, overwhelmed, or perhaps battling an addiction. We don’t just feel these things emotionally and mentally. We experience them physically, too. Spiritual health is just as important as physical health!

Spiritual health is just as important as physical health!

In 1 Thessalonians, the Bible tell us to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We were created to be joyful, and we are not, our hearts manifest this issue. For example, a scientific study concluded in 2005 that happiness predicts lower heart rate and blood pressure. In 2008, research also uncovered a link between happiness and heart rate variability, which is associated with risk for various diseases. If that isn’t enough, an additional study in 2010 found that expressing positive emotions regularly over time puts people at a 22% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease. In essence, happiness protects the heart.

Happiness protects the heart

Since happiness can seem like such an abstract idea, I’ve listed ideas from the official website for the International Day of Happiness on how to increase happiness.  I want to challenge each of you to begin practicing these “disciplines” daily.

1.    Do things for others

       Helping others is not only good for them, but it also connect us to our community                            making us happier.

2.    Connect with people

       People with strong social relationships are happier, healthier, and live longer.

3.    Take care of your body

       Being active makes us happier. It improves our mood and can even lift us out of a depression.

4.    Be comfortable with who you are

       Learning to accept ourselves and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong, increases                our enjoyment of life, resilience, and well being.

5.    Be part of something bigger

       Meaning and purpose make people happier. People who possess meaning and purpose feel                more in control and less stressed and anxious.

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Becoming a Healthier You

I once had a patient, we’ll call him Matt, who suddenly started coming home from work every day and immediately kicking off his shoes and plopping down so hard into his chair that it would immediately force it back into a recliner position, feet up, head back, ready for a pre-dinner nap. He hadn’t acted like this in all of his 35 young adult years... what had changed?

As far back as anyone who knew him could remember, Matt had developed the good habit of exercising the body God blessed him with, and he was disciplined to commit to 45 minutes of exercise daily. He found ways to motivate himself until it became an automatic habit. He persevered, no matter the circumstance at work or at home, tending to his family and the kids' activities, and no matter the weather conditions. Exercise had become part of “who he was.”  Even when he got sick (this is a personal view and not necessarily medical advice), Matt felt exercise would sweat out the toxins and help him recovery more quickly.   

So how did this part of him change? The change in his attitude seemed to start, ever so gradually, after a shoulder injury (which occurred during exercise, so be careful and warm up) ultimately required a surgical procedure to repair. For optimal recovery, he was ordered post-surgical physical therapy and to refrain from his daily exercise routine for the first 6 weeks. Then he gradually returned to some forms of exercise that were not his preferred form of activity for another 6 weeks, then he gradually incorporated more strenuous activities while continuing to build up the muscles in the shoulder to regain the strength. This was not what Matt had become accustomed to. It was enough time, it appeared, to dramatically change the good habit he had maintained for more than 35 years! 

Matt became overwhelmingly busier at work, unable to finish the day at a time when he could exercise, even if he wanted to or was able to do so.  It would be logical to expect that this would free up an extra hour to accomplish daily tasks, now that this time was not spent exercising, yet his
“free time” became imperceptibly absorbed into his day, with no accountability on the day’s ledger. The lack of discipline to maintain a commitment to exercise mysteriously made its way into Matt's life.  He became more inefficient at work and secretly did not know how he would be able to find the time to squeeze exercise back into his life once he had completely healed—the way he had done all of his life!! 

Amazingly, Matt's diet was also affected. There was no time to prepare a healthy breakfast and there were no longer any leftovers from the previous night's dinner to bring for lunch—he ate it all the night before as his newfound lack of discipline spilled into his eating habits. He now resorted to boxed, bagged, fast foods available in place of the healthy choices he fueled his body with for so many years before. 

For those who find themselves needing to reclaim good health habits, there is no better time to start than today!

Matt definitely had no time for a relationship with God. Although he still fellowshipped with Him during the day—he loved Jesus—there was no longer “time” to spend meditating on His Word in the quiet peace of the morning as he had felt led to do years ago. This peace Matt had grown accustomed to starting his day with was missing. It was time for Matt to stop listening to the lies of what he could not do and time to take control of his life by listening to the truth of God's Word. He needed to start acting on the truth of what he could do. He needed to reclaim the good habits that he had worked so hard to develop all those years.  For Matt and others who find themselves in similar situations, there is no better time to start than today!

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to guide you to a healthier lifestyle, inside and out. 

Dr. Arthur Constantine - The Do's and Don'ts of Becoming a Healthier You

DO:

Start the day with fellowship with God, reading and studying His Word. Do get a daily devotional that emphasizes an aspect of your life that keeps you engaged (a particular author you like, a subject or activity you enjoy, and a devotional that combines this subject and the Scripture). Commit to it every day as God will provide the time spent back to you throughout the day. 

DON'T:

Listen to the lies that say you have no time for the Creator of the World (including you), the One who knows every hair on your head and loves you so much He gave His One and Only Son for your sins. 

DO:

Take time to prepare to eat healthy daily starting with a good, filling nutritious breakfast every morning and a nutritious meal for lunch, making every attempt to bring from home a meal you know the nutritional value with items you make each day or preferably parts of leftover dinners from the previous night(s) meals. This is also much less expensive (and quicker) than any option you would have to purchase from the available establishments around your work. 

DON'T:

Skip breakfast for any reason. Do not be unprepared for lunch, as you will be spending considerably more for your food, have to wait in line to be served taking up valuable time toward your goal of getting home with time left for exercise. You will also absorb the cost (doctor/hospital visits, more medications, etc) of poor health as a result of boxed, bagged, or fast foods. You will experience decreased efficiency from not executing your best decisions, which results from improperly fueling your body and brain (resulting in more time drained from your day).

DO:

Make time for exercise. When you do not make time to develop good habits, they are not likely to be sustainable, becoming second nature. You must be intentional and actively develop good exercise habits.  Plan ahead--bring the gear you will need for that evening of exercise with you to work in order to go straight to the fitness center or YMCA after work without having the unnecessary stop at home (which will likely stop the plan of exercise). Have your gear ready and accessible at home if you are going to go outside to jog/walk/etc so there will be fewer impediments. If you enjoy morning exercise, plan ahead by getting to bed earlier and do not compromise daily devotional--commit to a time when you will achieve 100 percent success with this very important action. 

DON'T:

Start the day without a plan for exercise, both for the morning and for the evening. What type of exercise, where, and how. Don't leave home without the proper clothes, shoes, etc so you can go straight to the action, which will save time and help you avoid making the unnecessary detour home, where the recliner awaits. 

DO:  

Stay well-hydrated throughout the day. We must consume 1 oz of water for half of our weight in pounds (be reasonable if you are overweight as I don't want you to drown), and more if we are exercising or exercising outside on a high heat/humidity day.  Get in the practice of starting early with 2 bottles of water in the morning to get your organs hydrated, and one bottle 30 minutes before each meal to help with digestion. 

DON'T:

Drink water too late in the day. This is ineffective for staying well hydrated as not being able to get in enough during the day causes organs to decrease their efficiency, ultimately leading to more fatigue.  If it becomes too late in the day and you try to suddenly make up for not drinking enough water, evening especially, you will cause yourself to have a restless night sleep. I’m sure we’ve all been there. 

DO:

Get plenty of sleep (one struggle I find particularly hard to overcome). Turn off all devices well before bed time, take a couple of relaxing deep breaths, start thanking God for all the blessings in your life, and minimize reliving the stresses of the day. The day is now over, so there is nothing to be
done about it at this time. If needed, play music that comforts your heart at a low volume as you drift off to sleep. 

DON'T:

Try to cram in much stressful work or projects before bed- they will follow you to your comfort zone, keeping you awake. Do not over stimulate your brain and heart with TV/loud music/computer/video games. Instead, find time to wind down and ready your mind for “pause” mode. Do not deprive your body of necessary restorative sleep. A tired mind and body—especially one that needs an afternoon “catnap”—is an inefficient way to spend your workday. 


Anxiety and the Heart

As you let go of your anxieties and expectations, hope miraculously manifests and helps you to trust God for your tomorrows.

God always delivers His promises. God’s faithfulness has been shown in all circumstances, but perhaps not at the time I expected it. The important thing to remember is that God is always faithful.

What is required of us is to stand firm in faith as we wait on His timing.

Anxiety and the Heart by Arthur Constantine

As a cardiologist, I have witnessed many instances of His faithfulness. From the “mundane” continued good health after an initial heart attack and stent to the “spectacular” healing of one of my patients from cancer, His faithfulness is always amazing.

My patient, Linda, was convinced she had heart disease since our introduction in my office over 20 years ago. Every annual visit or frequent unscheduled “urgent” visit was always the same. The results of her tests revealed no issue with her physical heart.  

Everyone could see the worry in her eyes; the office nurse, receptionist, the EKG technician could all see it. Even other patients in the waiting room knew her symptoms! However, no matter the evidence that her heart was strong and healthy, Linda always left unsatisfied.

There was no convincing Linda that her physical heart was not the problem. She was physically experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, palpitations, a rapid heartbeat and a slow heartbeat which gave her the feeling that she was going to pass out. Nothing made anatomical sense. Early on, I would try unsuccessfully to convince Linda she was OK, yet, I left our appointments as unsatisfied as she was. Frustrated that I could not heal her, I felt discussing God’s truth with her would be best. Visit after visit, asking how she was doing only focused on what was not true. My job was much more rewarding as I encouraged her by focusing on God’s truth. Each appointment, I reminded Linda that God loved her until the next visit for more of the same.

One morning, my Bible reading focused on hope and faith in Hebrews 6:13-20. Later that day, I saw Linda in the office. She told me that two months earlier she went through a major surgical procedure to treat – not cure – a diagnosis of liver cancer. One would think all attention and efforts would now be focused on recovery from cancer, but remarkably, Linda’s heart remained to be her concern! I encouraged her to place all her prayer and effort on healing from this very serious diagnosis that left Linda’s other doctors with no hope of cure.

Over the next three years, Linda would look better physically, but there was something more than just her physical appearance. One visit, three years after the cancer surgery, I was amazed to come into the office to see Linda a different person. For the first time in 22 years, I saw peace in her eyes and joy in her heart. Physically, she had improved, but spiritually and emotionally, this was not the same person.

As we spoke, she even sounded different. I was instinctively led to hug her and tell her how wonderful she looked and for the first time, I didn’t have to convince her of it! As I apologized for keeping her waiting longer than usual, it took me by surprise to hear Linda say, “You are worth waiting for.” Linda went on to share an incredible experience she had while in the waiting room. As she waited for our appointment, Linda looked across at an elderly woman waiting to see her doctor. Linda felt the woman needed someone to talk to, so she rose from her chair and walked over to sit next to the woman. Linda shared that she felt God wanted her to speak with the woman as it looked like she needed comforting. Although I was somewhat perplexed to hear this come from Linda, I could see Linda truly enjoyed sharing her heart with this patient. It was how wonderful it was to see Linda’s heart so healed that she was now able to give of herself to help someone else’s heart! As I told Linda this, she began to cry. This time, I knew they were tears of joy and not tears of fear.

Linda confessed that over the last 22 years, she needed to come in to see me because at least for the moment, it would uplift her heart to hear how much God loved her and that all would be OK. Now, with what looked like a cure from a disease thought to be unresponsive to chemotherapy, Linda could see and feel in her heart how much God truly loved her. Before she heard it, but now she believed it.

God is faithful and His grace is always enough for all of us, all the time!