Being a physician is very rewarding. But like many occupations, it has its ups and downs.
I recently saw a nice man in his 50s come in concerned about his high blood pressure. He works in a fast-paced, quota-driven, deadline-hovering job on the Coast and is good at what he does. He hasn’t been having any symptoms but became concerned when a 51-year old coworker blacked out at work. The coworker was later discovered to have high blood pressure. The following week his buddy blacked out again, then went into a coma and a week later was in the grave.
So my new patient, fearing he too might go the same route as his friend, wanted his blood pressure to be controlled. His blood pressure was, suffice it to say, “Empire State Building high.” He had been neglecting it. He needed to be in the hospital, treated as an emergency, but he refused. (Said he had work to do!). Ahh, me. Anyway, I prescribed him medication, and recommended he cease the 2-pack-a-day cigarette habit, along with maybe cutting the beer way back to say, two a day, to which he grimaced. Then added, if he couldn’t do that then he at least needed to reduce his added-salt habit, to which he admitted he dashed salt on almost everything he ate.
As the rewarding thing about being a physician is seeing the results that come from people making constructive lifestyle changes, so too the flip side of this coin is seeing the ‘dark drape’ come over people who are so enslaved to their work that they forego basic life-sustaining measures in order to live a full life. The future bodes ill for this man afflicted with “Hurry Sickness.” If you Google the term Hurry Sickness you will find a lot of entries. It once was you hardly saw an entry. It’s now a recognized factor in poor health outcomes.
So Mr. Hurry will probably not be sufficiently motivated to escape the impending doom that will visit him before he turns 60. To say so sounds mean and cruel but I’ve seen men like Mr. Hurry a few too many times in the past to say otherwise, men being more afflicted with “Hurry Sickness” than women. I hope I’m wrong, because he seems to be a nice guy. Perhaps it’s because men are afflicted with too much testosterone or it’s in the Y-chromosome somewhere yet to be discovered.
Anyway, to the same degree that hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity contribute to blood vessel and heart disease, so too does a lifestyle fraught with urgency and hurriedness. To wit, the front page article this past Sunday in the SunHerald, a vignette on two people, one in his early 40s, with a family, who had a quad-bypass and proudly announced he was back to work within two weeks or so. With all due respect to the writer and the gentleman, who owned and operated a cluster of successful restaurants, this is, in my humble opinion, the crux of his problem. The irresistible urge to be engaged constantly in commerce, even at the expense of his personal health and at jeopardy for his family, who relies on him as the main breadwinner.
Nothing in this SunHerald article addressed the importance of pacing oneself at work while still being diligent with your work, probably because the upshot of the article was to encourage people to walk in the upcoming American Heart Association's Heart Walk Saturday soon. There’s a difference in being in control of your work versus your work being in control of you. It seems, so the science is now telling us, that when your work is in control of you, that you are at the mercy of the rapidly changing physiological processes that undermine the normal workings inside your body. Increased catecholamines and hormones that harden arteries, plaque-clogging processes that occlude important blood vessels, constantly rapidly beating hearts, and so on. All resulting in either heart attacks, fatal rhythms of the heart, stroke, aneurysm, and even cancer.
Alas, perhaps a non-fatal event will jolt Mr. Hurry into reality and allow him to see how important the hells-bells selling of 40 cars a month is in the scheme of things – or however many he needs to sell before the Apocalypse appears or the CEO appears in the store wondering why we're not going even faster.
Anyway, pray from Mr. Hurry that he will make the lifestyle changes necessary to prolong his life beyond its current prognosis. And as you do so don’t forget to keep eating those veggies, fruits, grains, and beans – as well as, most importantly, not forgetting to smell the roses.