Today is the first anniversary of the day I came home from the hospital–On June 24, 2011, I had a heart attack. Paco notes the event to underscore the need for all CPO’s to attend to their heart health. As the excerpted article below documents, heart disease is rife in the ranks of public safety.
Fact is, heart attacks are so common in CDCR, the passing of an active or recently retired CO or PA causes nary an eyebrow to rise. When one of our folks dies in a car accident, it is tragic–Keeling over from a coronary is expected.
While it is true being physically fit is critical to avoiding the Big One, it is only part of it. To wit, seemingly fit law enforcement officers have heart attacks with regularity–While others overeat or drink in response to stress, some internalize it without need of comfort food or drink.
Yet, sucking it up means it goes somewhere–Hypertension and depression are just as likely to cause heart failure as high cholesterol and a spare tire.
I am lucky to be celebrating another year of life today. You, on the other hand, can take luck out of the equation.
Focus not only on physical health but mental health as well–For, indeed, they are one and the same.
For my part, I followed the advice of my cardiologist, family doctor and the shrink by participating in therapy known as ‘mindfulness.’ Essentially, mindfulness is meditation with a twist. The idea is to concentrate on being in the moment by focusing thought on sensations, sounds (etc) as a means of distracting the mind from unhealthy activities like ruminating on the past and worrying about the future. It may sound simplistic, even silly, but it works. In fact, mindfulness therapy is so effective, even the stingiest of HMO’s cover it…mine did.
“Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.” –Psychology Today
Now, Paco knows many of you will never consider participating in meditative therapy. I understand. I wouldn’t do it either–Then I had a heart attack at 52. Now I am sold.
I have learned how to break the cycle of stress. But, if you are a knucklehead like Paco and your heart sends you an urgent message one day, here’s hoping you have the opportunity to do something about it thereafter…not in the hereafter. –
Research showing increased risk and prevalence of cardiovascular disease in police officers also could apply to firefighters, nurses and teachers.
By Susan J. Landers | American Medical News
Washington — It’s no secret that police officers face a lot of stress on the job. After all, bringing in the bad guys is hazardous duty.
But surprisingly, it’s also the low-level, chronic stress of finishing up paperwork and juggling work and family — stressors faced by workers across occupations — that can take a toll on the health of police officers, according to recent research.
The risk for cardiovascular disease is higher among law enforcement officers than it is for the rest of the population, where it is already exceedingly high. Heart disease and strokes cause more deaths in Americans of both genders and all racial and ethnic groups than any other disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It appears that chronic stress in police officers may be a factor in heart disease’s elevated levels among these men and women….(Full text at American Medical News)
Additional Resources on Mindfulness: