The Heart Speaks

It’s another book report. This week I report on “The Heart Speaks”, by a cardiologist named Mimi Guarneri.

It’s rare that I read a book by an M.D. that talks about health outside of the very siloed constructs of conventional medicine. Honestly, I find most conventional practitioners have an excellent handle on what could be wrong with you, and many answers about what drugs might “solve” your problem, but very little to say about how you got there in the first place. Their understanding of “bad diet” versus “good diet” is almost laughable to me because half of them are eating processed foods and acting in ways that they themselves are likely to be pretty ill in the foreseeable future. It’s hard to take advice from someone who doesn’t really seem to have a clue.

Reading this very personal and beautifully honest account by Dr. Guarneri was such a breath of fresh air. I have no doubt that she has a more than proficient handle on all of the miracles of modern medicine, but she hasn’t traded one type of knowledge for another, and she still values the ability of a physician to heal through the act of listening.

She tells the story of her professional path, called to serve others but sidetracked by the system, one which likes “17.9 minute visits”. I myself had a 17 minute visit the other day, which didn’t really fix much, except to give me a physical therapy recommendation. The physical therapy helped some, but in the end it was the orthopedic massage therapist that my neighbor recommended who made me functional again. I paid $300 for tests that didn’t solve anything, which I would have gladly given to Steve Cunningham instead.

Guarneri explains how her patients, after heart attacks and bypass surgeries, were seeking out alternative modes of healing. She came to the realization that her approach might be lacking something. “… later that day, as I stood at my local car dealership, I watched a technician bent over the hood of a patron’s car, explaining his transmission problem and the various options he could try. And it dawned on me that he was spending more time with this guy’s car than I had spent with my stent patient’s heart.”

I think any good book affirms what you know to be true in your being and then goes the next step of calling you out on your shit. Given that I chose to name my blog “Genghis Mom”, you can imagine that the “Echoes of Anger” chapter was not going to tell me I was doing a good job in this department. “There are recent studies suggesting that hostility, in particular, may be more predictive of coronary diseas than more traditional factors such as smoking and high cholesterol.” Damn it!

The book is an artfully crafted anthology of patient cases that call us all to do what I often call for regarding our food; to clean it up. Our emotional diets could use a rehaul as well. My emotional drink of choice is rabid anger of the Melissa McCarthy variety in The Heat. When laced with humor, it’s a steam valve. When not, it’s toxic.

I read the entire book in less than three days. It’s a quick read, and it’s moving. The last chapter is entitled Compassionate Medicine. I can definitely toast to that.

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