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