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Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy
     

Love and Survival: The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy

by Dean Ornish
 

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Love and survival. What do they have to do with each other?

This book is based on a simple but powerful idea: Our survival depends on the healing power of love, intimacy and relationships. As individuals. As communities. As a country. As a culture. Perhaps even as a species.

For the past 20 years, Dean Ornish, M.D., has directed clinical research,

Overview

Love and survival. What do they have to do with each other?

This book is based on a simple but powerful idea: Our survival depends on the healing power of love, intimacy and relationships. As individuals. As communities. As a country. As a culture. Perhaps even as a species.

For the past 20 years, Dean Ornish, M.D., has directed clinical research, demonstrating — for the first time — that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse severe coronary heart disease without drugs or surgery. Now, this "impossible" idea has become mainstream.

Although most people tend to think of Dr. Ornish's program as being primarily about diet, he has found that perhaps the most powerful and meaningful intervention is love and intimacy and the emotional and spiritual transformation that often results. Yet those factors are largely ignored by the medical profession, which tends to focus primarily on the physical and mechanistic: drugs and surgery, genes and germs, microbes and molecules.

Dr. Ornish is a pioneer once more as he persuasively argues that love and intimacy are a root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing. If a new drug had that same impact, virtually every doctor in the country would be recommending it for their patients.

There is a deep spiritual hunger in this country as we approach the end of the 20th century and a new millenium. According to Dr. Ornish, the real epidemic in our culture is what he calls emotional and spiritual heart disease, the profound sense of loneliness, isolation, alienation and depression that is so prevalent today as the social structures that used to provide us with a sense of connection and community break down. We are only now beginning to appreciate what the radical shifts in our society in the past 50 years really mean.

Love and Survival also chronicles Dr. Ornish's personal journey along with his experiences as a physician and scientist. He also provides a comprehensive review of research supporting the powerful role of intimacy in health and illness, reveals in very personal terms his own struggles with intimacy and meaning and describes strategies and techniques for enhancing intimacy and communication.

Love and Survival is filled with powerful stories from Dr. Ornish's clinical and personal experiences. He takes his examination a step further by talking with eminent healers, scientists, theologians, psychologists, physicians, therapists and authors, each of whom provides a fascinating perspective on why love and intimacy are such powerful determinants of health and survival. In addition, Dr. Ornish's photographs, reflecting isolation and connection, illustrate the book.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Ornish, the bestselling author known for using diet, exercise, and stress management to treat heart disease Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease now insists that the most powerful influences on health are love and intimacy. The founder of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute near San Francisco says he knows of no other factor—"not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery—that has such a major impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness, and premature death from all causes." After backing up this claim with an impressive review of the literature supporting the healing role of social support and intimacy and the health-damaging consequences of loneliness and isolation, Ornish looks inward and describes his own personal journey to greater openness. He follows these self-revelations with a discussion of intimacy-enhancing strategies. In what is the book's least cohesive chapter, he presents a standard exercise in communication skills and briefly discusses the value of human touch, the meaning of commitment, the practice of meditation, and the role of spiritual practices and psychotherapy in developing the sense of self that is a prerequisite to achieving intimacy. Ornish then inserts a lengthy illustrative anecdote: the case of a patient whose heart disease begins to reverse after he accepts Ornish's urging to open his heart and give up his anger. The second and more compelling half of the book consists of Ornish's conversations on the role of love and intimacy in health and disease with a broad spectrum of thoughtful men and women with different perspectives: a yogi, an intuitive healer, atheologian, a sociologist, a psychologist, and many scientists and physicians.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060172138
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
01/30/1998
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.08(d)

Read an Excerpt


Love and survival.
What do they have to do with each other?
This book is based on a simple but powerful idea: Our survival depends on the healing power of love, intimacy, and relationships. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. As individuals. As communities. As a country. As a culture. Perhaps even as a species.
Most people tend to think of my work as being primarily about diet. It's gotten to the point where it's hard for me to go out to dinner with people without them apologizing for what they're eating or making comments about my food—even though I make it clear that I'm not the food police.
Many stories have appeared in the media about the research I have directed for the past twenty years that has demonstrated, for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease without drugs or surgery. Almost always, these articles focus on my diet: "What do people eat?" "Isn't this diet too strict for most people?" "Are they going to live longer or is it just going to seem longer?" And so on.
I have no intention of diminishing the power of diet and exercise or, for that matter, of drugs and surgery. There is more scientific evidence now than ever before demonstrating how simple changes in diet and lifestyle may cause significant improvements in health and well-being. As important as these are, I have found that perhaps the most powerful intervention—and the most meaningful for me and for most of the people with whom I work, including staff and patients—is the healing power of love and intimacy, and the emotional and spiritual transformation that often result from these. While I havewritten about these themes in my earlier books, the emotional and spiritual aspects of disease tend to get overlooked—so I decided to write an entire book on the subject.
In this book, I describe the increasing scientific evidence from my own research and from the studies of others that cause me to believe that love and intimacy are among the most powerful factors in health and illness, even though these ideas are largely ignored by the medical profession. As I review the extensive scientific literature that supports these ideas, I will describe the limitations of science to document and understand the full range of these implications—not only in our health and illness, but also in what often brings the most joy, value, and meaning to our lives. I give examples from my life and from the lives of friends, colleagues, and patients.
Medicine today tends to focus primarily on the physical and mechanistic: drugs and surgery, genes and germs, microbes and molecules. I am not aware of any other factor in medicine—not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery—that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness, and premature death from all causes.
Cholesterol, for example, is clearly related to the incidence of illness and premature death from heart disease and stroke. Those with the highest blood cholesterol levels may have a risk of heart attack several times greater than those with the lowest levels, and lowering cholesterol levels will reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. However, cholesterol levels are not related to such diseases as complications during pregnancy and childbirth, the incidence of illness and premature death from infectious diseases, arthritis, ulcers, and so on, whereas loneliness and isolation may significantly increase the risk of all these. Something else is going on.
Smoking, diet, and exercise affect a wide variety of illnesses, but no one has shown that quitting smoking, exercising, or changing diet can double the length of survival in women with metastatic breast cancer, whereas the enhanced love and intimacy provided by weekly group support sessions has been shown to do just that, as I will describe in chapter 2.1 While genetics plays a role in most illnesses, the number of diseases in which our genes play a primary, causative role is relatively small. Genetic factors—even when combined with cholesterol levels and all of the known risk factors—account for no more than one-half the risk of heart disease.
Love and intimacy are at a root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing. If a new drug had the same impact, virtually every doctor in the country would be recommending it for their patients. It would be malpractice not to prescribe it—yet, with few exceptions, we doctors do not learn much about the healing power of love, intimacy, and transformation in our medical training. Rather, these ideas are often ignored or even denigrated.
It has become increasingly clear to even the most skeptical physicians why diet is important. Why exercise is important. Why stopping smoking is important. But love and intimacy? Opening your heart? And what is emotional and spiritual transformation?
I am a scientist. I believe in the value of science as a powerful means of gaining greater understanding of the world we live in. Science can help us sort out truth from fiction, hype from reality, what works from what doesn't work, for whom, and under what circumstances. Although I respect the ways and power of science, I also understand its limitations as well. What is most meaningful often cannot be measured. What is verifiable may not necessarily be what is most important. As the British scientist Denis Burkitt once wrote, "Not everything that counts can be counted."
We may not yet have the tools to measure what is most meaningful to people, but the value of those experiences is not diminished by our inability to quantify them. We can listen, we can learn, and we can benefit greatly from those who have had these experiences. When we gather together to tell and listen to each other's stories, the sense of community and the recognition of shared experiences can be profoundly healing.
I am fascinated by the increasing interest in alternative medicine yet concerned that many of these remedies have little scientific evidence to support their use. I am continually amazed by the success of books making the most astonishing claims—for example, that bacon and eggs are good for you if you have a particular blood type—by authors who have never conducted or even cited a single scientific research study to support their unfounded claims even when they may be misleading and even harmful.

What People are Saying About This

"Revolutionary results....Dr. Ornish's work could change the lives of millions."
John Gray
"Relationships bring freedom and joy. InLove & Survival, Dr. Dean Ornish powerfully demonstrates that intimacy also can heal. I am thrilled about this book!"
Andrew Weil
"Dr. Dean Ornish, who was the first to prove the reversal of heart disease by changing lifestyle, now turns his attention to the heart in a more profound sense and identifies love and intimacy as the most powerful healing forces that exist. I could not agree more. This book is filled with sparkling insights and practical wisdom about protecting health and enhancing wellness by attending the nourishment of our real hearts."
Daniel Goleman
"Love & Survivalis an emotionally intelligent guide to good health and well-being. Everyone should read it."

Meet the Author

Dean Ornish, M.D., is president and director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, CA. He is assistant clinical professor of medicine at the School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, and an attending physician at California Pacific Medical Center.

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