We are in the concluding days of the month of February, designated as Heart Health Month. Our knowledgeable cardiologists have told us to be more active; to maintain a healthy weight; to eat a healthy diet; to manage our high blood pressure; to manage our high cholesterol. We've also been told to manage our stress. In an article in Everyday Health author Mikel Theobold tells us, "Stress causes strain on the heart which creates a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.” Jeffrey Fisher, M.D., a cardiologist and clinical professor of medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College and attending physician at New York – Presbyterian Hospital, recommends exercise for people experiencing mild to moderate stress. Fisher states when people start to exercise and feel the endorphins, they start to feel better both physically and mentally. Exercise has also been shown to reduce the risk of death after a heart attack. The article goes on to state, "In addition to exercise, a spiritual practice or meditation can help you keep stress in check. A study presented at an American Heart Association conference found that people with heart disease who meditated had nearly 50% less rates of stroke, heart attack and death compared to those who didn't meditate."
One of the key stressors today is that we live in a profoundly connected world that expects us to be available 24/7/365. The pace of our communications moves at warp speed. The pressure to make immediate decisions about weighty matters has been geometrically increased by the spontaneity of the communications process. In the past there was time for thought, evaluation and then reaction. Today, it appears to be just the opposite; we react, then we evaluate, and then we rethink. We need to continue to evaluate the impact this phenomenon is having on our heart health. We see highly-skilled physicians in the prime of their careers walking away because of the stresses. They are but one example of a category of professionals for whom the constant accessibility and availability creates significant mental pressures that take their toll on our physical well-being.
We tell our colleagues and our employees we want them to take vacations so that they can have quality time for themselves and their families. Yet, we fully expect them to continue to be "connected" through all of the devices we have provided them. We are very proud of the fact that work has become a mobile experience. We can provide our skills and talents almost anywhere that Wi-Fi is available. The detriment is that Wi-Fi is almost universally available which increases our accessibility. This translates into availability and results in deterioration of our health as we are always available. The fact is we have what could be described as an addiction to check our emails and texts on our smart phones without hesitation. If we are not constantly checking we experience the withdrawal syndrome as with any other addiction.
This constant pressure to be available weighs on us mentally and physically. It denies us both peace of mind and quiet time to recharge, reevaluate and review. I have watched people in prayer yet pulling out their smart phones to check messages. I've watched businesspeople out for a day of relaxation on the golf course delaying a shot so they can run over to their golf carts as they left their phone's ringer on.
The reality is if we want to significantly improve our heart health we need to establish a life balance that insulates us from the constant pressures associated with always being present. We need to tune out those "missed business opportunities" by creating time and space for quality-of-life experiences that are not part of our business life or the world of social media.
There is "extraordinary freedom through discipline." When you first think about it, you would define freedom as the lack of constraints; yet the reality is, it is the reverse. If you decide for your heart health that you are not going to be always available, you have taken the first step of declaring your freedom and peace of mind by determining you are not going to be always attached to your electronic communications devices.
As Heart Health Month comes to a close you can renew your commitment to a healthy heart through all of the recommended ideas of exercise, a healthy diet and weight control. We should further add freeing ourselves from the stresses of our accessibility through technology to our heart health regimen.