Saturday, January 31, 2015
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In today’s media-saturated America, everyone has an opinion. From Bill O’Reilly to Chris Matthews, Rush Limbaugh to Rachel Maddow – there is no shortage of viewpoints. But how many of those perspectives bring you back to a place of passionate, persistent prayer for the nation?

“Viewpoint” allows the expression on the political, social and moral issues of the day. At times, you may not agree. But in the end, you will be energized to pray for America, with the prism of Scripture and a decidedly Godly direction as your guide. Plus, you can blog your comments to every article, have your say.

Read – then pray with an enlightened, more informed viewpoint for your nation and its leaders. 

Health As A Heart Matter

View Point

Science reveals optimism bias

By Holly L. Meade

Heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 600,000 people die from this illness in America each year. That means that every 33 seconds someone in the United States dies from cardiovascular disease. That’s roughly the equivalent of a September 11 tragedy repeating itself every 24 hours, 365 days a year.

Key risk factors for heart disease include diet and lifestyle-related factors such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, smoking, physical inactivity and alcohol use. In fact, almost half of all Americans have at least one of these three risk factors. However, a recent study by the University of Illinois reveals that apparently a pessimistic attitude is also on the list.

"Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts," says the study's lead author and professor of social work, Rosalba Hernandez. "This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health."

To examine the association between optimism and cardiovascular health, the study used data collected from more than 5,100 adults ages 52-84 between 2002 and 2004. The sample population included 38 percent Caucasian, 28 percent African-American, 22 percent Hispanic/Latino and 12 percent Chinese. Results concluded that optimism leads to significantly better blood sugar and total cholesterol levels. Optimists also are more physically active, have healthier body mass indexes and are less likely to smoke.

"At the population level, even this moderate difference in cardiovascular health translates into a significant reduction in death rates," Hernandez said. "This evidence, which is hypothesized to occur through a biobehavioral mechanism, suggests that prevention strategies that target modification of psychological well-being – e.g., optimism – may be a potential avenue for AHA to reach its goal of improving Americans' cardiovascular health by 20 percent before 2020."

People can produce more than 45,000 thoughts a day. As a negative thought begins to develop, it activates a section of the brain that causes a domino-effect release of insidious “downer” chemicals. On the other hand, positive thoughts do not cause this kind of damage. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of Who Switched Off My Brain? says, “Research shows that around 87% of illnesses can be attributed to our thought life and approximately 13% to diet, genetics and environment. Studies conclusively link more chronic diseases (also known as lifestyle diseases) to an epidemic of toxic emotions in our culture.”

Science also confirms what Scripture says – that people are shaped, in large part, by thoughts. The Bible, which often refers to the heart as the source of thoughts, uses the words thinkthought, and mind hundreds of times.

Dr. Leaf says, “God tells us we are made in His image with a sound mind that operates in love and power. Science proves we are wired for love, for the positive. This is called the optimism bias. Therefore both science and scripture demonstrate we are wired for healthy thinking, choices, emotions and health. The beautiful thing is that God designed us with the ability to renew our minds. We do not have to hold onto negative thoughts; we can replace them with healthy ones.”

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

To change a negative thought life, people must do three things, Leaf says. “Admit it, quit it and beat it. This happens as we ask the Holy Spirit to identify negative thoughts in us. Once God reveals the negative thought that needs to be removed, replace it by focusing on positive thoughts. Whatever you think about most will grow. Start redirecting your attention in the direction of what God wants you to do, and start taking your attention off the negative. You have just renewed your mind.”

So remember as you read God’s Word and pray each day, you will have a healthier heart as well as a positive influence on your family, friends, neighbors….and this nation.

“It is something Christians should practice diligently if we desire to successfully do the work God has created us to do. You cannot change the world unless your mind is right,” says Leaf. “When we get strong in our minds we will draw people to the Light.”

Holly Meade is a communications specialist, writer, speaker and teacher with a master's degree in mass communication. She has extensive experience in creating and producing content for radio, television and the Internet.

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