Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
Do you have a plan for your life? Why are you committed to reclaiming or maintaining your health?
Finding your purpose or your “why” power is what gets us out of bed each morning. If we don’t have a reason for living, the entire day becomes a chore and we lose site of our goal. Over time, we can fall into a trap of a negative downward spiral. We stop investing in ourselves. We stop investing in the relationships with family members or others within our social networks. We may stop eating the foods that give us health and energy. We may even stop exercising or moving altogether.
I have found that my patients who have successfully reversed their medical conditions have a very strong answer to “Why are you committed to regaining your health?” They also have an answer to the follow up question, “What will happen if you cannot regain your health?”
We have to visualize our goal. We also need to visualize what will happen if we cannot stick to our goal. Every day I review my life’s goals and purpose. It gives me much greater focus and clarity with all of the distractions and temptations in our modern life.
In my mid 40s I had lost my health and lost my “Why”. I was working long and crazy hours at the hospital. I had lost my connection to my family, myself, and even my spirituality.
I would not take vacation time. Each day I would start working at 5 or 6 am and often would not come home from the hospital until 8 pm or later at night. I definitely was not happy at that time either.
I had this crazy idea that if I just worked hard enough and we saved our money that we could retire early and start enjoying life. I fell victim to the trap of once this happens (fill in the blank), I will be happy. You cannot put off your happiness. The key is to be happy in the moment, happy in whatever stage of life you are in.
In the end, my body just gave out. It hurt to move or do anything. I wound up on 5 different medications and had developed an autoimmune disease, severe esophagitis, degenerative disk disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, horrible insomnia, and chronic fatigue.
I always felt tired and would try to compensate by eating plenty of donuts, bagels, pizza, and Diet Coke each day. Finally, I realized how far off course my life had become. I also realized that my answer to the second question, “what will happen if you cannot regain your health” was that I would become a decrepit, arthritic, and sickly overweight man and would likely wind up in one of those Jazzy scooters before age 60!
The first step for me to regain my health was to develop a strong life’s purpose. My purpose required me to have excellent health so that I could fulfill my role in this life. The purpose also had to be strong enough to resist all of the temptations of modern life.
The Power of Purpose and Risk of Heart Disease
Does having a sense of purpose matter with regards to health? The answer is a resounding yes! I learned this first hand.
One of the largest studies looking at the role of a life purpose and survival was done in Japan. In this study, they had a total of 43,391 people that they followed for 7 years. They found that those who did not have a sense of purpose for their lives were 50% more likely to die during the 7 years of the study.
Interestingly, in this same study the risk of dying from a heart related cause was 60% higher if you lacked a sense of purpose in your life.
The researchers offered several explanations for their findings. They cited other studies which have shown that people without purpose or hope are more likely to develop blood clots, have increased levels of inflammation, and are more likely to have the dangerous forms of cholesterol.
Having a Purpose Can Protect Against Alzheimer Disease
An equally fascinating study was recently published on 246 individuals from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. In this study, they found that having a life mission or purpose could help to prevent cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s Disease. It makes sense to me, if you have a purpose you have passion. If you have a passion for life you will live in a way that promotes health and wellbeing. To read this study click here.
Lack of Purpose and Poor Health
This is something that I have seen many times in my career. The most dangerous day in the life of a man is the day he retires. For many men, their sense of purpose seems to come from their job or career. So often, when men retire their health quickly crashes over the next 1 to 2 years.
Does this mean we can never retire? Of course, not. However, instead of turning retirement into lounging on the chair, it could be an opportunity to move from a “for profit” to a “non-profit” career.
Volunteering can be so incredibly therapeutic and health promoting. Many studies have shown that those who volunteer gain remarkable health benefits. We all need to feel needed and valued for optimal health.
How to Develop Your Life’s Purpose
How can we develop our own life purpose as this is the first step to reclaiming our health? This is something that is very personal and will vary from person to person. You must be sure that your purpose and goals are your own rather than “should’s” that may be placed on us externally.
For me, what seemed to give me the greatest clarity of my life’s purpose was to imagine what I would want people to say of me at my funeral. What do I want my life to stand for and what legacy do I want to leave? What mark will I leave on the world so that my posterity will know that I once lived here. I hope that I can live my life so that on my gravestone my family will have carved my life’s purpose which is “He served God, loved his family, and healed the sick”.
To fulfill my life’s purpose I must have good health. I now know that I can never take this for granted again! This strong sense of purpose keeps me motivated and helps me each day to live in a way that promotes health. It gets me out of bed, it motivates me to move each day, and it inspires me to resist foods that will take me away from this purpose.
What is your “Why”? Does a strong sense of purpose give you the power to resist the temptations of modern life? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.