I think we can all agree — times are tough all over. And when you add living with a chronic progressive condition to the mix, things may start to seem hopeless.
But it turns out that hope is valuable medicine — worth finding and holding on to. A recent study from the University of Minnesota Medical School found that hopelessness may increase the risk for strokes in healthy women. Women who scored high on hopelessness questions had more thickening in their carotid (neck) arteries, a predictor of stroke.
Now, the first thing I would ask is, “what do you mean by hopelessness? How is it different from depression?” After all, hopelessness is one of depression’s main symptoms.
Senior study author Susan Everson-Rose said that they were able to separate hopelessness from depression. They asked the women about the future and about their personal goals. Those questions seemed to predict neck artery thickness with or without depression. The difference was significant even after adjusting for age, race, income, and heart disease risk factors.
How well do you cope?
In a related study, depression expert Paul Surtees of the University of Cambridge found that risk of stroke was predicted by something called sense of coherence. People who found life “coherent” had fewer strokes.
People were asked three questions to the following effect: Do the things that happen to you usually make sense to you? Do you feel you can solve most problems that come up? Does your life give you a sense of personal satisfaction? Those who answered positively had fewer strokes in the following years, no matter how hard their actual social situations were.
I would say that people who had “coherence” were less likely to be “hopeless.” They felt they could change things. They felt they could understand their lives and found life somewhat meaningful.
It makes sense that people who feel more confident would be healthier. They have less stress, because no matter what happens, they think they can handle it. The question becomes, how do you maintain hope in this crazy world?
I mean, if you have a chronic illness like diabetes, it might get better or it might get worse, but it’s not going to go away. That’s not a realistic hope. I don’t know if these wars and recessions and environmental problems we’re living with are going away, but I’m not holding my breath or pinning too many hopes on their disappearing. So where is the hope supposed to come from?
Help me out on this. I know some people hope that they will go to Heaven when they die. For those of us who don’t believe in that, or the alternate future called Hell, what is the hope? That we can prevent complications? Enjoy life? Do some good in the world? Be reborn?
Is any of your hope based on medical science finding new treatments? Do you pin your hopes on your children and future generations? I guess the big question is what we can DO in our lives to increase our sense of hope and sense of “coherence.” Because doing so will likely improve both our health and our quality of life.
Thanks in advance for any help you can give. Also, be sure to check out my and Aisha’s new article on orgasm. Some good comments there.