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Heart disease is the number one killer of men in America - but the cause may be more complex than cutting out saturated fat and salt. There is an increasing body of research supporting the link between physical and spiritual health. It's difficult to have a truly healthy physical life without a healthy spiritual life and vice versa. In Total Heart Health for Men, well-known author and pastor Ed Young teams up with two of the country's leading physicians from the world-renown Texas Heart Institute, Dr. J. Michael ...
Heart disease is the number one killer of men in America - but the cause may be more complex than cutting out saturated fat and salt. There is an increasing body of research supporting the link between physical and spiritual health. It's difficult to have a truly healthy physical life without a healthy spiritual life and vice versa. In Total Heart Health for Men, well-known author and pastor Ed Young teams up with two of the country's leading physicians from the world-renown Texas Heart Institute, Dr. J. Michael Duncan and Dr. Richard Leachman, to offer men the guidance they so desperately need to achieve total heart health in their lives. As part of the '30-Minutes-a-Day Total Heart Health Challenge,' men will be inspired and supported in making practical changes toward a healthy heart, by honoring Christ both physically and spiritually, with their total hearts.
A real man is all heart, not just a collection of important parts. Dr. Ed Young
Do you know any guys like Reuben? Rueben is a thirty-something who spends many hours a week at a gym pumping iron to sculpt a physique like the ones in those commercials for bodybuilding machines. And his arteries are just as lean as his abs. He hasn't so much as sniffed a bag of French fries or a Twinkie in more than six years. The problem is, the gym and the health-food store are his world. His closest relationships are with his workout buddies, and all they talk about is working out. Reuben could wear out a fleet of treadmills and never have a heart attack. But he is not as heart healthy as his body-fat numbers would indicate.
Maybe you work with a mover and shaker like Wayne. He's not climbing the corporate ladder; he's on an express elevator to the corner office. He puts in fourteen-hour days at the office and still spends two to three hours a night on the laptop at home. His goal is to make vice president before he's forty. In the meantime, Wayne drinks too much and scoffs at physical fitness. He has little time or interest in lesser endeavors, such as saving his marriage or investigating God's claims on his life. Wayne may win the vice president's office by the time he's forty, but the way he's mistreating his heart, he could just as easily end up in a hospital room or a viewing room.
There may also be a Russell among your acquaintances. Russell, in his fifties, is all heart, at least that's what most people say. He's a deacon in the church and spends many hours every week helping people in need. But this good-hearted deacon is about to be fired from his third job in four years. Russell has a history of showing up for work late and leaving early. And he keeps putting off a physical exam, despite his wife's insistence that he go. He hasn't felt right for months, but he's too busy getting good things done to worry about it. All things considered, Russell's big heart may not be as big as people think.
Then there's the Alan in many of our lives. This guy is young, unattached, and making plenty of money. But Alan's life really revolves around sports and having fun. He's got all the toys: an entertainment system that can blow out windows, access to a gazillion cable sports channels, and a collection of rare sports memorabilia that he will retire on someday. Alan has dated a lot of young women, but they lose interest once they realize they always will play second string to Alan's sports heroes.
Where Are the Stout-Hearted Men These Days?
Don't you think there's a little bit of these four men in all of us? Life is so full of important, meaningful, and enjoyable experiences that we can't seem to make them all fit together. We feel fragmented, out of balance, pulled in so many directions that we have difficulty doing justice to anything. We all want to excel in our jobs, stay reasonably fit, accomplish some good with our lives, and have some fun along the way. But it doesn't seem there are enough hours in the day, and we don't have the energy for all we need to do and want to do. So our hearts are divided, and some things-including important things-sometimes draw the short straw.
Segmented, unbalanced lives are all too common among men today. But it doesn't have to be this way, nor should it be. You are not a collection of parts that operate independently of one another. God created you to be a whole man with many closely integrated facets, such as body, mind, emotions, and relationships. These areas are all interrelated and cannot be parceled out into categories of success or failure. When one area of your life is neglected or stressed, the whole person suffers as a result.
In his lyrics, Oscar Hammerstein II popularized the phrase "stout-hearted men." According to the song, stout-hearted men act on their dreams to make them real and their hearts inspire other men with their fire. Mike, Rick, and I believe that real stout-hearted men are wholehearted men. Wholehearted men are the ones who have the best opportunity to live out their dreams and inspire others with their fire. When it comes to a man's heart, a total heart is greater than the sum of its parts. We believe God designed men to experience wholeness and health in body, soul, and spirit.
Looking at the caricatures of the four men described above may remind you of areas where you would like to enjoy greater health physically, spiritually, emotionally, or relationally. You may want to lose a few pounds and strengthen that physical heart of yours with a more disciplined exercise regimen. Maybe you yearn to draw closer to God and invite Him to be more involved in your daily life. Or perhaps you long for your life to come together in all areas, to feel that your heart is whole, together, and heading in the right direction. If so, this book is for you.
Whatever your heart goals may be, we confidently make this promise to you: if you will devote about one hour a day to Total Heart Health for 90 days straight-roughly thirty minutes to strengthening your physical heart and thirty minutes to strengthening your spiritual heart, while eating sensibly in the process-your life will be changed. You will begin to enjoy benefits that will last you a lifetime.
Components of a Wholehearted Man
When it comes to your heart, there's more to you than meets the eye. Let me take a minute to reacquaint you with the two major components of a wholehearted man.
The Ticker That Keeps on Ticking
Throughout this book, Mike Duncan and Rick Leachman will tell you about the wonders of your physical heart and the importance of keeping it healthy. But allow me to give you a quick overview of your heart in layman's terms.
Make a fist with one of your hands, right there where you're sitting; then take a good look at it. Located somewhere behind your ribs in the middle of your chest, your heart is about the size of that fist. Every minute of your life, at least a gallon and a half of your blood is pumped through your heart. And when you're jogging on the track or the treadmill or playing a furious game of racquetball, it can pump up to eight gallons per minute through about sixty thousand miles of arteries, veins, and capillaries. Amazing!
You may have been told that your heart keeps up this pace for a lifetime without any rest. Technically, that's not true. You've heard a human heartbeat amplified, haven't you-if not your own, perhaps the heartbeat of a loved one? To me it sounds like the heart is saying, Loved up, loved up, loved up, loved up-which is a good thing for a heart to say. But between every up and the next loved is a pause that's about twice as long as the beat. God masterfully designed your heart with a built-in R&R feature. It rests and relaxes between every single beat. No wonder it can keep ticking for eighty, ninety, one hundred years or more.
I believe God's design for the heart tells us something about His design for the rhythm of our lives. We need to rest and relax twice as long as we work. And isn't it interesting that the common workday is about eight hours and that we use about twice that amount for sleep and recreation? When people stray from God's rhythm for work and rest-I'm talking about workaholics here-they add undue stress to their hearts, and that can lead to all kinds of physical problems.
Here's another fascinating fact about your physical heart. It has a built-in pacemaker that keeps it ticking like a watch connected to a hundred-year battery. About seventy to eighty times every minute, an electrochemical charge sweeps over your heart, and it beats in response to this charge-loved up, loved up, loved up. Even more interesting, this pacemaker of yours is self-generating. You cut the nerves to your legs, and they won't move. You cut the nerves to your lungs, and you stop breathing. But if you cut the nerves to the heart's pacemaker, it will keep on zapping the heart with that vital electrochemical charge. Borrowing the words from an old Timex watch commercial, your heart can take a licking and keep on ticking.
As magnificent and efficient as your heart is, your heart isn't what keeps you alive. It's what your heart delivers to the cells of your body that keeps you humming along: your blood and all the nutrients you need. William Harvey, English court physician to King James I and King Charles I, discovered the circulatory system in the early 1600s. That's when he declared to the world his revolutionary and, at that time, controversial discovery: it is the blood circulating through the body that gives life. Had the medical community paid closer attention to the Bible, they would have recognized this truth millennia sooner. In Leviticus 17:11, God told the Israelites, "The life of the flesh is in the blood."
Not long ago, I talked with someone who had witnessed kidney-transplant surgery. This person said that when the transplant team brought in the donated kidney, it looked pale and anemic-like a piece of meat that had gone bad. But once they put the kidney in place and the patient's blood began to flow through it, the organ turned red and vibrant. The life of that kidney was in the blood that pulsed through it.
Of course, your blood would be of no help to you at all if your heart didn't do its job. That's why taking care of your physical heart is literally a matter of life and death. Keep your heart free from disease, and it will keep you alive. Disregard the principles for heart health, and you run the risk of shearing years off your life and bringing tragedy to your loved ones.
The two obvious keys to keeping your ticker ticking strongly are diet and exercise. You just can't go through life on the run eating whatever is convenient and quick. If you want a healthy heart and a long life, you must be thoughtful and purposeful about your diet. We're not saying you have to give up juicy steaks and sugary desserts for life. That's no way to live either. You just have to be smart about what and how much you eat. In part 3, Drs. Duncan and Leachman will share with you sensible, healthy, and realistic nutrition tips that include foods you already enjoy.
As for exercise, you cannot assume that just because you live an active life, you get the exercise you really need for a healthy heart. Your physical workouts each week must be intentional, scheduled, and aimed at specific health goals. A good exercise plan will provide moderate exertion several times a week. And if you think exercise is boring, our physical heart health team has a pleasant surprise in store for you. Exercising your heart to better health can be fun!
The Heart That Cannot Be Transplanted
Just as a healthy physical heart keeps your body well, so a healthy spiritual heart is essential to keeping the rest of you well. Wise King Solomon wrote, "Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that's where life starts" (Proverbs 4:23 MSG). The spiritual heart is mentioned more than eight hundred times in the Bible. It's the spiritual heart we're talking about when we use words like heartfelt, tender-hearted, hardhearted, and heartbreaking. It's this heart we mean when we say, "My heart was touched," "My heart goes out to him," "God spoke to my heart," "He has a lot of heart," and "I'm sick at heart about it."
Flowing from the vital life center of the spiritual heart are our passions, our desires, our dreams, our characters, and our choices. Everyone can put on an act for a while. We can behave the way we know we should, say the right thing at the right time, and be the person others expect us to be. But eventually what's in our hearts is going to flow out. If the heart is not healthy, in time it will show up in our words, speech, decisions, responses, and reactions. That's why we must guard our hearts vigilantly. A healthy spiritual heart is essential to a healthy spiritual life.
Unless you guard your heart, unless you pursue a healthy spiritual heart as well as a healthy physical heart, you will be vulnerable to life-crippling spiritual heart disease. How can you guard your heart? You let God go to work on it with His Word. There are at least three ways the Bible can keep your spiritual heart healthy.
The Word of God makes precise, lifesaving incisions like a surgeon's scalpel. Hebrews 4:12-14 says, "His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon's scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God's Word. We can't get away from it-no matter what" (MSG).
We all need spiritual heart surgery from time to time for strengthening weak muscles and cutting away diseased tissue. You need God's precise, healing Word in the hands of the Master Surgeon to keep your heart healthy and growing strong.
God's Word purifies and cauterizes like a flame. The Lord spoke through the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, "Is not My word like fire?" (Jeremiah 23:29). It's so easy to surround our hearts with rationalizations about what is right, what is good, and what we should do. Our human way of doing things tries to cut a deal with God based on our best ideas and plans. Isn't that the height of arrogance to try to tell God what to do? That's when we need the purifying, healing fire of the Word to burn away what is extraneous, that humanistic spin we tend to put on life.
God is so deeply concerned for the health of our hearts that He will sometimes resort to force. Still speaking through Jeremiah, the Lord continues, "Is not My word ... like a hammer which shatters a rock?" (v. 29). Sometimes we are so hardhearted that God needs to allow difficult circumstances in our lives in order to turn our attention to His Word for solutions.
When a person needs open-heart surgery, the surgeon must inflict some damage and pain in order to get inside the rib cage and heal the heart. If he doesn't cut into the chest cavity, the disease can't be cured. His intent is not to be malicious or hurtful; he only wants to heal and nurture your heart to wholeness.
Your Spiritual Heart Health Depends on You
The success of God's heart-healing work depends on an active response from you, just as maintaining a healthy physical heart requires you to be proactive with diet and exercise.
You will encourage spiritual heart health by maintaining a consistent personal connection with God. Follow a daily plan that includes setting aside time to pray and read something from the Bible. We will talk more about going one-on-one with God later in this book.
Staying healthy spiritually and physically is aided by being in church. Many surveys have shown a positive link between church attendance and physical health. One study conducted by Robert Hummer of the University of Texas surveyed twenty-one thousand adults for a nine-year period. People who never attend church, the survey revealed, "are four times as likely to die from respiratory disease, diabetes, or infectious diseases." When you are active in church, you are doing yourself and your health a huge favor!
Spiritual heart health is an ongoing discipline, just as physical heart health is. Interspersed between the insights on physical heart health from our two doctors, we will share helpful tips for keeping your spiritual heart strong and healthy.
When I think of a man's journey toward Total Heart Health, King David comes to mind. He prayed, "Put me together, one heart and mind; then, undivided, I'll worship in joyful fear" (Psalm 86:11 MSG). David knew about the segmented life, the fragmented heart, and all the pain that goes with it. He cried out to God, asking Him to pull all the pieces together so his total heart would be centered on God.
That's a great prayer, isn't it? "Lord, give me a whole heart focused on You." When you ask God for an undivided heart, get ready. That's just what He loves to do. As you get on the road toward living wholeheartedly, here are four keys to keep in mind.
Your Physical Heart and Your Spiritual Heart Are "Joined at the Hip"
In the Bible, the creation account says, "The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground." That's the material, physical part of us, but God wasn't finished. The verse continues, "and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). "Being" in this verse literally means "soul." That's the immaterial, spiritual part of us-our thoughts, feelings, motives, choices, desires, fears, hopes, ideas, dreams, purposes, guilts, joys, and so on.
God created us as physical and spiritual beings, and whatever happens to one part affects the other. No wonder the apostle Paul prayed, "May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole ... put you together-spirit, soul, and body-and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ" (1 Thessalonians 5:23 MSG).
God wants you to grow in health as a whole person. Physical heart health and spiritual heart health are tightly interlocked.
Excerpted from Total Heart Health for Men by Ed Young Michael Duncan Richard Leachman Copyright © 2007 by Dr. Ed Young, Dr. Michael Duncan and Dr. Richard Leachman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Chapter 1: The Heart-A Man's True North
Chapter 2: The Uniqueness of a Man's Physical Heart
Chapter 3: The Uniqueness of a Man's Spiritual Heart
Chapter 4: Hidden Heart Disease
Chapter 5: Signs of Spiritual Heart Disease
Chapter 6: Weighed Down by that Three-Letter Word: FAT
Chapter 7: The Difference between a Full Spiritual Heart and a Fat Spiritual Heart
Chapter 8: Five Food Fallacies
Chapter 9: Five Faith Fallacies
Chapter 10: Physical Heart Inhibitors
Chapter 11: Spiritual Heart Inhibitors
Chapter 12: Body Fuels
Chapter 13: Spiritual Heart Fuels
Chapter 14: The Total Heart According to God