Congratulations! By picking up this book, you have taken the first step toward improving the health of your heart.
As health care professionals, we see people every day who are concerned about heart disease. Perhaps, like some of our patients, you are recovering from a heart attack or have experienced chest pain known as angina. You may be concerned that you are at risk for a heart attack or stroke because you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or high cholesterol. If so, we think this book will provide helpful advice about how you can make changes, starting today, that will improve the health of your heart.
Mind Your Heart builds on the authors' more than thirty-five years of research and patient care. Here you will find, for the first time, a step-by-step guide to heart health that combines the latest information about stress management, nutrition, and exercise. This complements advice offered in earlier books by Dr. Herbert Benson, especially The Relaxation Response and The Wellness Book.
The strategies we describe in these pages are the same ones that we offer to patients in our Cardiac Wellness Program at the Mind/Body Medical Institute. The basic Cardiac Wellness Program lasts for thirteen consecutive weeks, during which participants attend weekly three-hour sessions. The Extended Cardiac Wellness Program lasts for twelve months and consists of thir-teen weekly three-hour sessions and eighteen bimonthly three-hour sessions. Many of our patients are referred to the clinic after being diagnosed with heart disease. Slightly more than half of our patients are men. Ages vary, but most people are between fifty-five and sixty years old when they enter our program.
The Cardiac Wellness Program is just one of several clinical programs that we offer at the Mind/Body Medical Institute. We also run programs to help people deal with infertility, insomnia, menopause, chronic pain, and general stress-related symptoms. Founded in 1988 at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston, the Mind/Body Medical Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing scientific research, public education, and professional training in the field of behavioral medicine. This field, also known as mind/body medicine, aims to foster your own natural capacity to heal in a way that enhances more traditional medical approaches such as medication and surgery. At the Mind/
Body Medical Institute, we employ an interdisciplinary team of exercise physiologists, advanced practice nurses, dietitians, psychologists, and physicians who together have developed the techniques you will find in this book.
Of course, we realize that it is not easy to make changes in behavior and lifestyle. We also respect the fact that you are an individual. For both these reasons, we've included quizzes and exercises to help you identify your own particular risks as well as a number of strategies and techniques for behavior change, so that you can choose the ones you feel most comfortable with.
Thousands of people have already completed our mind/body programs and made significant changes in their lives. We hope that this book will provide a useful road map for you as you embark on your own journey of change. Happy reading!
Aggie Casey, M.S., R.N.
Herbert Benson, M.D.
Copyright © 2004 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College