On Babe Ruth, Hobbies and the Heart

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As we get set to leave Baltimore for Philadelphia, I can’t help but reminisce of the great friendships and memories made in “Charm City”.   As a baseball enthusiast, moving to Baltimore in the mid-80s brought me an even greater appreciation of GH (Babe) Ruth, the hometown hero and legendary “Sultan of Swat”.  Over the past several decades, my hobby of collecting baseball memorabilia rose to a new depth as I pursued Ruth-related collectibles.  Of the 7 baseball cards illustrated, 5 are of the Bambino himself (from the 1933 Goudey and 1948 Leaf set), 1 is of his teammate, Lou Gehrig (1934 Goudey) and on the upper right, is the 1909 T-206 Ty Cobb (green background) acquired from the estate of Babe Ruth’s cousin shortly after my move to Baltimore from Cincinnati.   

It is no surprise that we commonly refer to Baltimore as “Small”-timore because there are so many interconnections…in the case of Babe Ruth, I pass by his birth home nearly every day as the University of Maryland Hospital is just a block away.  Ironically and many decades earlier, my wife’s family (generations of native Baltimoreans) at one time owned the pub where Babe Ruth’s father was employed (currently the centerfield area of Camden Yards).  Even our 13-year-old cockapoo is aptly named “George Herman”!

Listed below are reasons to engage in a hobby that is appealing to you.

  1. Hobbies have a positive impact on the heart by improving psychological health.  Studies have shown that psychological health is an important component of wellness/well-being for patients at risk of heart disease (CVD).
  2. A recent study in spouses who were caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease found that participation in pleasant leisure activities was associated with improvement in cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure and emotional stress.
  3. Engagement in a variety of art forms (2 hours each week) such as the performing arts, visual arts and literature is associated with better emotional and heart health (improved heart rate variability).
  4. A study conducted in Pittsburgh found that engaging in enjoyable activities was associated with lower blood pressure, stress hormone (cortisol) levels, waist circumference, and body mass index as well as a better overall perception of physical function.
  5. A study of 4,200 Swedes aged 60 and over found that gardening and do-it-yourself projects to be associated with a 25-30% lower risk of heart attack, stroke or death from cardiovascular disease over a 12 year follow-up period.
  6. Enjoyment of a hobby is associated with an 8-fold lower risk of future cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke due to improvement in vascular health.
  7. A newly published study conducted in Japan over a 16-year follow-up period found that compared to those that have no hobbies, engaging in 1 or multiple hobbies was associated with a 10-20% lower risk of cardiovascular events.
  8. Engagement in activities such as jigsaw and crossword puzzles reduce stress hormone (cortisol) levels; a recent study found that elevated levels of urinary cortisol predates the development of hypertension.

Dr. Michael Miller is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.  Check him out on twitter: @mmillermd1

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