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Being a Healthy Servant

Six time-tested recommendations to grow in health

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“Do you know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” — 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

What I have realized in my years of diaconate formation is that the Lord does not always call the holiest or the healthiest of men. Thus it is our duty not only to grow in holiness, but also to grow in health. St. Paul does not mince words on how important our bodies are as temples of the Holy Spirit. If we want to have a fruitful ministry as Christ the Servant to his Church, we must be a good servant to our own health. As a cardiologist, I share a few time-tested recommendations to promote an improved quality of life, which can help us be better servants.

It all starts with a good night’s sleep. The minimum recommended time is seven hours — that’s right, seven hours, at the minimum. A good habit that promotes sleep hygiene is to avoid devices like TVs, cell phones or iPads for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Have a dark sleep space and minimize noise disturbances. If you are getting up more than two times a night, see a urologist. If your spouse says you snore, seek out a sleep study.

Second, get an annual checkup with your primary physician. Many diseases that can be easily controlled if caught early will be detected at these appointments. These include checking your weight for obesity, blood pressure for hypertension, and undergoing blood tests for cholesterol and diabetes. These chronic diseases are more manageable when detected early. It is always good to know your family tree and what diseases run in your family, as your family physician can then know to screen for these at your examination.

Third, if you smoke, stop. Just do it. The only thing smoking near a church should be a thurible. Quitting today reduces your chance of a heart attack by 50% in the first year. There are no magic bullets, except a total act of the will to quit. We need to be slaves to Christ, not nicotine.

Fourth, we are what we eat. The body is a bank account, and we need to spend more than we deposit. There is no special diet that is better than another. It all comes down to calories per day and whatever helps you limit the intake. Some choices are better than others, such as minimizing sugar and processed foods. It is always good to eat in moderation and avoid fried foods. You can start by not going back for seconds and eating half of what is served when you eat out. Your doggie bag will provide lunch the next day. Also, alcohol can be a toxin and slow metabolism. It is best to limit to two drinks a day or less.

Fifth, maintaining hydration is a key to good health. The water in our temples accounts for 60% of our weight, and as we age our thirst is not a reliable guide. Over 100 ounces of liquid is ideal and will help minimize the chances of passing out at the altar.

Last, exercise is your friend. It is best to do at least 30 minutes of activity at least five days a week. Light weight training and stretching are very helpful habits.

As the Second Book of Chronicles tells us, “Be strong and do not slack off, for there shall be a reward for what you do” (15:7).

SEAN TIERNEY, MD, KHS, is a board-certified cardiologist/electrophysiologist in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, a father of five and in formation for the diaconate in the Diocese of Joliet, class of 2025.

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