At the end of the 1979 Monty Python film “Life of Brian,” Eric Idle, Graham Chapman (Brian) and a few dozen others are being hung out to dry (literally), so Idle’s character tries to cheer up everyone by singing, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Well, if you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease and someone tells you to cheer up, it may sound as absurd as that scene’s dark humor. But staying positive is smart medicine. People diagnosed with heart disease who have an upbeat attitude and who exercise live a lot longer and more robustly than those who don’t.
Researchers followed more than 600 patients with ischemic heart disease for five years and found that those who received optimism counseling and participated in an exercise program cut their risk of dying during those years by 42 percent. Conversely, folks with heart disease who also are depressed have a 20 percent increase in all causes of mortality and hospitalizations.
Bottom line: If you have heart disease, you’ll benefit by brightening your mood and increasing your physical activity (which always improves outlook, too!). Spend more time with friends and family; volunteer to help others less fortunate; identify something you’ve always wanted to learn or do — then go for it! And start a progressive walking program targeting 30 minutes a day or more. (We say, aim for 10,000 steps daily.) With your doc’s permission, look into more aerobic activities, like swimming or classes at the gym or in a rehab program. And remember, always look on the bright side of life.
“Celibacy is to a yogi what electricity is to a light bulb,” say some esoteric practitioners of spirituality. But we say yoga can be to a couple with a fading sexual relationship what throwing a switch is to a light bulb. Researchers at Loyola University in Chicago have noted that “partnered yoga” can ease some of the problems couples have as a result of decreased libido, painful intercourse, inability to have an orgasm, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation.
If you’re having these kinds of relationship problems, massage, breathing exercises and mutually beneficial yoga postures may help re-establish trust, increase comfort with each other’s body (and your own) and rekindle feelings of intimacy. Statistics on how common these problems are vary wildly. But it’s fair to say that when sexual difficulties arise, some are temporary (as a result of illness or stress), while others are more long-lasting. In either case, it’s important to find solutions or workarounds.
Partnered yoga can help you do just that. But remember you must strike a balance between your two levels of flexibility, strength and stamina so that you both enjoy every move. Then yoga can ease muscle and joint pain that often gets in the way of a robust sex life. And when done together, you’ll each activate your vagus nerve, which affects heartbeat, muscle movement and breathing, and boosts feel-good brain chemicals. For more info on yoga benefits (try a partnered warrior pose and tree pose) check out www.sharecare.com.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic.