The healthiest hearts have an “attitude”

Reducing your risk of heart problems and the possibility of a stroke increases your life expectancy. The best way to accomplish this, say researchers, is not with a drug but with what you think about when you wake up in the morning.

A study at Mount Sinai Hospital and Mount Sinai School of Medicine shows that having a high sense of purpose in your life, a purpose that shapes your thoughts and actions, can help fight off heart disease and vascular problems.

In analyzing 10 studies that looked at the health of more than 137,000 people, the scientists demonstrated a connection between having a strong purpose in life with a stronger, more resilient cardiovascular system. [1]

What does “purpose in life” include? It can be as simple as a firm sense of direction, and giving meaning to the activities you do throughout your life. It also encompasses a belief that life is worth living.

During these various studies, having a sense of purpose was linked to a 23 percent drop in the chances of dying from any cause. And those people who had a “purpose in life” had a 19 percent reduced chance of suffering a heart attack, or stroke.

“Developing and refining your sense of purpose could protect your heart health and potentially save your life,” says researcher Randy Cohen, a preventive cardiologist. “Our study shows there is a strong relationship between having a sense of purpose in life and protection from dying or having a cardiovascular event.”

One of the most effective ways to empower yourself and improve your health in this way is through mindfulness meditation.

Think mindfulness can’t affect your health and longevity? A study at the University of Cal-Davis found that using mindfulness meditation methods for just three months improves your sense of wellbeing so much that it makes your very cells younger and healthier. [2]

Mindfulness practice is simple and only takes 10 minutes. One of the easiest is mantra meditation, where you concentrate on your breath going in and out while repeating a phrase. In this case, I recommend the “Soham” mantra. Why? Because in yogic practice, it helps you answer the question “who am I?” This answer will help in our goal of improving heart health by helping you define your  “purpose in life.”

The soham mantra is among the easiest because yogis believe it the most natural, since “Soooo” is the sound of inhalation and “Hammmm” is the sound of exhalation.

Sit comfortably, relax yourself, and breathe in and out, being mindful of Soooo and Hammmm. For best effect, gradually allow your exhalation

[1] “Sense of purpose may lower risk of death, heart attack, stroke.” American Heart Association. Friday March 6, 2015. Retrieved Monday March 9, 2015.
[2] Blackburn E, Wolkowitz O, et. al. “Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators.” Psychoneuroendocr. 2011 Jun;36(5):664-81.

Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.