After two heart attacks nearly killed him at 55, a prominent doctor made a remarkable discovery that brought him a far better life and ultimately allowed him to live to be 90.
This doctor was well known San Francisco cardiologist and author Meyer Friedman, who coined the phrase “Type A personality,” so commonly used today. It refers to high intensity people, many of whom are stress driven workaholics and who have little patience for others.
As a Type A personality, Dr. Friedman understood the condition well. By the time he had finished junior high school, he planned to attend Yale University and then Johns Hopkins Medical School, for he had already become a young man in a hurry.
As a doctor, for many years he was known for racing up and down the halls to get to patients and if people didn’t speak quickly enough he’d abruptly cut them off and get them to the point for there was no time to waste on small talk. His time was valuable.
And really getting to know the patient beyond a medical chart was out of the question.
With Dr. Friedman’s enormous medical expertise and his tight schedule allowing him to see large numbers of patients, he became very successful but he paid the price.
When he was just 45-years-old in 1955, he suffered an angina attack which is intense bouts of heart pain. He didn’t change his behavior and when he was 55-years old he suffered the first of two heart attacks.
With his life now hanging by a thread, Dr. Friedman knew he had to change his life, before he no longer had one. And the change he discovered not only did save his life but the lives of countless thousands of other heart patients and it is an approach you and I can use, starting today.
It is very simple and it is this: Slow down, calm yourself and find relaxing things to do in place of your intensity before it kills you or damages your health. In Dr. Friedman’s case he developed a strong interest in what he termed “the three Ps: Pets! Plants! Persons!”
He consciously slowed down as he became more patient with everyone, including his wife and three children, and he became an avid reader of the classics.
One of his favorites was Marcel Proust’s seven volume “Remembrance of Things Past.” He read all 3,200 pages three times! For he realized from personal experience and later from studies that one could sharply cut the risk of a heart attack by calming down and relaxing.
And Dr. Friedman believed reading the classics is a great way to improve the mind. In treating his patients, he encouraged them to read and try other things Type B personalities often do. Put their watches away for awhile, drive in a slow lane and when shopping, select a long line and strike up a conversation with those around them.
“You can’t change personalities,” Dr. Friedman would say. “We just try for more B-like behavior.”
Dr. Friedman pointed out that to succeed Type A personalities must overcome their “impatience and hostility,” and that many Type B’s succeed as well. He listed such notable Type B people as Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.
Over the years, Dr. Friedman not only helped Type A personalities, his research led to important contributions in treating cholesterol and gout and helped develop the angiogram, which is a dye injection in the arteries to locate blockages.
In 2001, shortly before his 91st birthday, following a short illness Dr. Friedman passed away. He had lived decades longer than anyone could have anticipated and was far more productive and found much more happiness in his life by taking the time to enjoy the wonderful journey life can be. Shouldn’t you and I do the same.