- Robert Maurer is a Spokane psychologist, consultant and author.
We all know that the heart is a muscle, and that muscles require exercise. It is also an organ, so good nutrition is essential. What is less well known is that the heart is equally impacted by the quality of our social interactions.
Physicians have long believed that emotions greatly affect our health and longevity. Cardiologists Ray Rosenman and Meyer Friedman began identifying the dramatic influence of our moods and relationships on heart health when they discovered the Type A personality. Among the key traits of this personality type, anger has been identified as the major risk factor linked to cardiac disease and death. Being short-tempered in traffic, at stores, at work, or with family and friends can cause severe damage to the heart. Hostility puts us at risk for higher cholesterol as well.
- Maurer's book, One Small Step Can Change Your Life, was named a Google Top 100 book for 2016.
On the other hand, a feeling of connectedness has been repeatedly associated with improved heart health. This means not just having family and friends, but feeling appreciated, loved and valued by them. A willingness to ask for help from others who are non-judgmental can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease. For example, patients who confide in others have dramatically lower levels of cholesterol, and lower risks of hypertension as well.
After more than 40 years of research in the field, it appears that seeking out friendships and practicing compassion — two highly effective antidotes to anger — are as important to our lives as good food and exercise.