"If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself." So goes the saying by Mickey Mantle. But tongue in cheek humor aside, it is a phrase that many men could say. So for this article we are going to take some special time to concentrate on men's health. Specifically, by looking at a key way to avoid the number one men's killer—heart disease!
Heart disease is probably the greatest physical health threat to men in the United States today. The most recent statistics suggest that it nearly claimed 217,000 lives in the year 2008 alone! According to the American Heart Association, men have both a greater risk of heart disease, and of heart attacks earlier in life than women. All men need to take this disease seriously, and understand that this No. 1 killer can be prevented. While things like maintaining a regular exercise program, eating healthier foods, not smoking, and sometimes even using medication can help reduce your risk—there is still another action men can take that may lower their risk more than any other...
Men, especially in rugged, individualist America, the land of the pioneer, too often find themselves "going it alone" as far as their thoughts and feelings go. But contrary to the prevalence of images of macho, loner men like Rambo, or the Marlboro man, what men truly need to be as healthy and strong as they can be is social interaction. Even the Lone Ranger had a friend. And recent studies are beginning to show just how powerful frequent and fulfilling bonds between men can really be.
Researchers in Sweden conducted a 15-year study on a group of 750 men and determined that those with the greatest amount of social interaction, that is those with many friends they saw regularly, were less than half as likely to have heart disease, all other factors being equal (smoking, weight, job related stress, etc.). More than that, the men in the study who showed deep emotional attachment to their friends were only 58% as likely to DEVELOP heart disease as their more keep to themselvish counterparts. Have you seen a statin trial, or any other prescription drug that can match that level of risk reduction?
They are all areas where men commonly can get together and have a good time!
Like MD William Campbell Douglass II has said, "Your best buddy need not have dragged you out of a burning building to be saving your life...your monthly poker night or round of golf with the boys (or whatever the bunch of you do for fun) is not only good for your soul—it's crucial for your heart and every other aspect of your health, too."
In another study, this time from the U.K., researchers found that heart attack survivors having close, loving relationships—with spouses, relatives, or close friends—were half as likely (there it is again!) to suffer a second heart problem within a year as those without close relationships to lean on. Boy! If you put both those studies together, maybe it's saying you could slash your heart disease risk by a factor of four!
The "key" is this: No man (or woman) is an island. Whether you believe this research proves it or not, close relationships are good for the soul—and GREAT for the heart. Much of our personal happiness and sense of belonging comes from the time we spend with others of like mind and heart. If we want to live a full and vital life, common sense tells us we must have it. Here are some tips:
"He who would have friends must himself be friendly..." Put forth the effort to get to know the people around you. You may be pleasantly surprised by what is within some people—and they by you!
Treasure your close friends. Speak well of them. Put forth the effort to keep in touch—even if distance has separated you.
Always develop your communication skills. Be yourself and speak the truth, but always with the view to increasing each other, not being overly critical. Watch out for negative thoughts, they could escape your mouth in damaging words. Be strong and sensible and hold your tongue!
Be quick to listen, and quick to forgive. Listening brings understanding, which brings compassion. Unforgiveness brings bitterness, separation, and loss of relationship. That's the fast track to early physical problems and death.
So stop being "friendly" with heart disease, and increase the quality of your friendships. Your heart will thank you!
Submitted by: Thomas Morrison, Fitness Coordinator, Bradley Wellness Center