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Your Emotions & Your Health
by Susan Dunn


In a symposium called "Integrating Mind, Body and Spirit in Medical Practice, researchers at Duke Medical Center investigated the role of anger, hostility, isolation and touch in our wellness. Here are some things you might like to know from Dennis Meredith's article, "It's All in Your Head: Healing Humanely," which reported on the conference.

  1. In a $30-million study for Enhancing Recovery in Coronary Heart Disease Patients, Duke and seven other medical centers will study 3,000 coronary patients who test high on depression and social isolation.

    This should give you a heads-up that isolation and depression are health risks. Half the subjects will be given counseling and group therapy. The others will receive standard cardiac care as researchers follow their progress. Stay tuned ...

  2. "My guess is that pure molecular science or technical intervention probably address only about 20% of the totality of patients' needs."

    So said Chancellor for Health Affairs Ralph Snyderman, who added, "We must return to our role as healers and find a better way to integrate spirituality and the art of practice with the science of medicine."

  3. The "Healing the Heart" program, a 2-week retreat for coronary artery disease patients features the nuts-and-bolts of good diet and exercise ...

    ... plus support groups, meditation, mindfulness, and yoga to reduce stress and increase coping. Of 200 patients who participated in the program, angina episodes were reduced from six per week to one.

  4. Learned life skills can reduce angry reactions to everyday frustrations, and it could be a matter of life or death.

    R. and V. Williams, authors of "Anger Kills," described their workshop for people whose anger could prove hazardous to their health. Learn to determine whether an anger-producing situation is really important, they say, whether your feelings are appropriate to the situation, whether it can be changed, and whether it's worth changing. If you get a 'no' to any of these, talk yourself out of the anger knowing what it's doing to your body.

  5. "Anger kills, whether you let it all hang out or whether you keep it to yourself," said the Director of Duke's Behavioral Medicine Research Center.

    As proof, he cited studies of both cardiac and cancer patients. The ones who got social support and training in managing anger and other negative emotions had about half the heart attack recurrence and mortality as those who didn't.

  6. "Our society needs a compassion revolution in how we relate to one another," warned Martin Sullivan, organizer of the conference.

    "I saw an interview with Mother Teresa, in which she was asked, 'You've been in India dealing with illnesses like cholera and AIDS. What is the worst illness you've ever seen?'" Sullivan told the conference. And she said without blinking an eye, "The worst illness I have ever seen is the loneliness and isolation in the West."

  7. The palpable physical symptom of pain can be controlled by force of mind.

    Francis Keefe, director of the Duke Pain Management Program revealed that pain is not a simple nerve signal traveling from injury to the perceiving brain, but rather travels parallel routes to many brain centers, including emotional centers. "The brain has the power to open and shut the pain gateways along nerve pathways," he said. "Thus your thoughts, feelings and behaviors -- your physiological responses to pain -- can alter that fundamental pain experience."

  8. Religious faith reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.

    So said Harold Koenig, director of the medical center's Program on Religion, Aging, and Health. "Such serenity means lower adrenalin and in turn may enhance the immune system to better fight infections, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and stomach and bowel problems. What's more, says Koenig, religion offers critical social support. Therefore you're more likely to comply with medical care.

  9. Survey studies by Duke Medical Center's John Barefoot and Redford Williams revealed the medical hazards of stress.

    In a long term study of medical school graduates over decades, 14% who scored high in stress on a personality test died, while only 2% of those who scored low on stress died.

  10. Hostility causes the brain to launch health-damaging signals to the immune system.

    Redford Williams called the nervous system and hormone responses of hostile people "really a pathway to disease and death." Physiological studies have revealed that highly hostile people show decreased activity in the protective parasympathetic nervous system, which normally acts to slow heart rate and dilate blood vessels.


The Author


Susan Dunn, M.A., is an executive coach, speaker, writer, and author of a series of ebooks on emotional intelligence. She is dedicated to bringing EQ into the workplace with seminars and workshops, individual coaching, and adjunctive distance learning courses. Visit her on the web at and for a free ezine about EQ in the workplace. Please put "EQ" in the subject line.

Many more articles in Health & Lifestyle in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2003 by Susan Dunn. All rights reserved.

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