Impacting Survival!

Frances Kolarek-150 wideBy Frances Kolarek —

”I am not aware of any other factor in medicine that has a greater impact on survival than the healing power of love and intimacy. Not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery.”

This unqualified statement comes from Dean Ornish, M.D., author of a new book, Love and Survival: 8 Pathways to Intimacy and Health. In brief, cutting yourself off from the world can come at a high cost.

Goodness knows I have not neglected the negative effects of loneliness and the importance of companionship and it’s likely effect upon one’s health and longevity.

But Dr. Ornish is taking us a few steps higher up the ladder and suggesting, no promising, that love — our friendly, affectionate connections with other people — can bring better physical health and contribute to longevity.

Reviewing “increasing scientific evidence” from his own research and that of others, he has come to believe in the power of love and intimacy as a factor in our physical health.

He points to the love and intimacy of a support group that has been shown to “double the length of survival in women with metastatic breast cancer.” And he deplores the denigration of the ideas about the healing power of intimacy in the training of future doctors.

It’s not an easy sell. Ornish tells of an occasion when he talked to a large group of cardiologists about radioactive stents — ”a totally new and unproven method with the possibility of highly toxic long-term side effects, the cardiologists just loved the idea …,” Ornish writes. They could hardly wait for an opportunity to try it out.

But when he introduced his ideas about emotions and their roles in health and illness, he says that many doctors got up and left the room.

A review of his book in a supplement to the Mayo Clinic Health Letter for August 2015 includes this statement: “The emotional and physical sides of people’s lives are so intertwined that emotional emptiness, anger or bitterness can actually contribute to mental and physical diseases.”

On the other side of the coin we have its corollary: When we increase the love and intimacy in our lives, we also increase the health, joy and meaning in our lives.


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