When pessimism wins

When I first met Hank, I immediately sensed it: anger, hostility, fear. His heart scan score of 685 just made it worse.

He didn't want to be there talking to me. His wife was giving him a hard time. Work was a constant source of irritation. The receptionist at the front desk screwed up his paperwork. Our office charges were too much.

In short, Hank was a pessimist. A bad one.

All the nutrition information out there is bunk. Only he knew how he should eat right. It's stupid to take a lot of fish oil. "You want me to grow gills?"

Among the parameters we use in the Track Your Plaque program is blood pressure during exercise, which provides a surrogate measure of blood pressure during emotional stress, anxiety, etc. "No, I don't need that. I already exercise." No amount of justification could change his mind. "A guy at work had a stress test. They said everything was fine, then Bang! He drops dead. What good is that?"

Hank did go along with a few pieces of advice.

A repeat heart scan 12 months after the first: 870, a 27% per year rate of increase. That's about what would happen if Hank had done nothing, had taken no action to try and stop or reduce his heart scan score.

I don't know if Hank will ever succeed in dropping his score. In fact, I suspect that he will fail, meaning that plaque will grow and he will eventually, perhaps in a year, two or three, require several stents, heart bypass, or have a heart attack. In other words, Hank's pessimism is a self-fulfilling phenomenon: If he believes he will fail, he will. If he believes the world is a rotten place, it is.

Is it possible to "cure" someone like Hank of his deeply-rooted pessimistic attitudes? I don't know of any easy solutions for someone with attitudes as deeply-ingrained as Hank's. (See my prior post, "Cure for pessimism?" at http://heartscanblog.blogspot.com/2007_05_01_archive.html.)

I believe it does help to make someone aware of their attitudes and that it does indeed exert ill health-effects--if they will believe it. But this is a very tough nut to crack.

Comments (3) -

  • DietKing2

    6/15/2007 1:49:00 PM |

    Attitude--it's half the battle, isn't it? Great post.

  • Mike

    6/15/2007 4:14:00 PM |

    He seems to be in denial. I'm sure that he is not following your guidelines, so no improvement in his health will occur.

  • JT

    6/16/2007 3:22:00 PM |

    When I read about Hank I thought "he could be related!"  Many relatives on my mom’s side of the family are similar to him.  They naturally find faults with situations, other people, and are world class deniers.  They are pretty miserable to be around, to me, for any length of time.  

    My family is a real contrast in that my father’s side of the family is the opposite from moms.  They are eternal optimists.  They tend to see positives in most things.  

    When it was learned that I had a high calcium score on my heart scan, responses received were as expected.   Relatives on mom’s side called to say - "doctors don't know what they are doing", "eat what you want", "those test scores don't mean anything." etc.  Fathers side of the family has been supportive - with my father going so far as to join me on the TYP diet and supplements.  He didn't have to but he wanted to know what it is like to take fish oil, the niacin flush, and to eat like a cave man.    

    Almost everyone who is older on mom’s side of the family, died of heart disease, has heart disease or experienced a stroke.  I want to say to them, why not try something different - like the ideas presented in the TYP book?  What has been tried in the past did not work so well, why not be open to new ideas?  But I know what ever I say will go in one ear and out the other.  They know they know and can not be persuaded other wise.  Being grizzled pessimists is in their blood, I believe.  

    I'm glad that I take after my father’s personality.