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This is a deliciously touching story. It's so good, it went and got us all weepy.

A 340 pound man with Type 2 diabetes, blood pressure through the roof, and another five years before his doc predicted he'd drop, had become socially isolated and locked in a shell. After an especially distressing incident on a plane, he decided to adopt an overweight, middle aged rescue dog, so they'd have something in common....

Please watch this, if you want to enjoy a wonderful, full-hearted lift that will stick with you all day. Really.

The work of the HeartMath® Institute has arguably had its greatest impact showing people that by focusing on their own feelings of love and care, they can entrain their heart rhythms to enter a more coherent, healthy, psychologically resilient state. And they can influence other hearts in the vicinity as well.

What's fun is, they do this with high-end monitors and sophisticated telemetry, so it's a lot harder for naysayers to simply call them fruit loops and dismiss their findings.

It's not that this TEDX talk from cardiologist Michael Rocha has such spanking new insights about what a healthy lifestyle can do for your heart - Dean Ornish established most of these guidelines over 20 years ago. But it's well said, sincerely offered and quite motivating. Think of it as a great way to start the new year!

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We got this question from a woman with a host of worries and concerns, none of which are exactly small potatoes. In spite of all these issues, she's clearly managed to keep her sense of humor intact. Check it out:

Question:

Hi, Belleruth,

I've had two of your tapes for years (depression and pre-surgery). Now I need one for rising blood pressure.

I had a pace-maker/defibrillator installed last year for my exceedingly low heart rate (cardiomyopathy triggered by viral pneumonia years ago), and now my blood pressure's rising with accompanying dreaded drug onslaught.

Seems to get worse as they raise the dosage, which I hate, resist, and fear etc. Other pressures have increased, too = big work project I'm excited to be working on. Plus increasingly wretched relationship with alcoholic son, which I work on with my Alanon 12-step study and sponsor.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin's School of Nursing performed a systematic review of the efficacy of relaxation, meditation and guided imagery on symptom management for heart failure, such as pain, dyspnea, fatigue, and sleep disruption.

Data bases such as CINAHL, Medline, and PsychINFO were searched from inception through December 2014. Articles were selected for inclusion if they tested a cognitive-behavioral (mind-body) strategy using a quasi-experimental or experimental design, involved a sample of adults with heart failure, and measured pain, dyspnea, fatigue, sleep disturbance, or symptom-related quality of life.

Thirteen articles describing 9 unique studies met the criteria and were included in the review. Five studies tested relaxation strategies, 3 tested meditation strategies, and 1 tested a guided imagery strategy.

Researchers from the Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak MI evaluated the effectiveness of massage therapy, with or without guided imagery, in reducing anxiety prior to cardiac catheterization.

A total of 55 inpatients and outpatients received massage, guided imagery, or massage with guided imagery prior to cardiac catheterization. Self-reported anxiety levels and blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR) were evaluated in participants and a matched comparison group.

Massage with and without guided imagery resulted in significant reductions in self-reported anxiety (p < 0.0001). Additionally, patients receiving the intervention had lower diastolic BP and HR vs. the comparison group (p < 0.0001 and p < 0.05).

Researchers from the UCLA School of Nursing evaluated a program of early, home based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program to remediate depression in patients recovering from cardiac surgery.

They conducted a randomized controlled trial and enrolled 808 patients who were screened for depressive symptoms, using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) in the hospital and 1 month later. Patients were also interviewed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV; those who met criteria for clinical depression (n = 81) were randomized to CBT (n = 45) or usual care (UC; n = 36). After completion of the UC period, 25 individuals were offered later CBT (UC + CBT).

The outcomes were evaluated after 8 weeks. Compared with the Usual Care group, the CBT group had greater decline in depression scores and greater remission of clinical depression.

Researchers from the Brain and Mind Research Institute at the University of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, evaluated the effectiveness of internet-delivered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (iCBT) on depressive symptom severity and adherence to medical advice (including lifestyle interventions) in adults with mild to moderate depression and high cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.

This was a randomized, double-blind, 12 week attention-controlled trial comparing an iCBT program (E-couch) with an internet-delivered attention control health information package (HealthWatch, n = 282).

The primary outcome measured was depression symptom level on the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) (trial registration: ACTRN12610000085077).

Out of 562 subjects, there were 487 completers (88%) who lasted to the final assessment.

Gulf Medical University in Ajman, United Arab Emirates, and Medical College Trivandrum in Kerala, India, assessed the efficacy of yoga in managing dyslipidemia in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Patients (n=100) were randomly assigned to either a yoga group or a control group.  The yoga subjects practiced one hr/day for three months, while receiving oral hypoglycemic medication.

The controls received medication only (treatment as usual).

Lipid profiles of both groups were compared at the start and at the end of the three months.

In a feasibility study at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, investigators looked at whether Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) could decrease blood pressure in low-income, urban, African-American older adults, and whether such an intervention would be acceptable to and feasible with minority, low income, older adults when provided at home. 

The study was launched because (1) hypertension affects a large proportion of urban African-American older adults; and (2) many older adults don’t have access to medications and/or don’t take them when they do have them.

Participants were at least 62 years old and residents of a low-income senior residence. All were African-American, mostly female. Twenty participants were randomized to the mindfulness-based intervention or a social support control group, both of which were 8 weeks duration.
Blood pressure was measured with the Omron automatic blood pressure machine at baseline and at the end of the 8-week intervention.

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