This Valentine’s Day, Start Taking Care of Your Heart
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far…wait, that’s another story…humans believed that the heart was the center of all our emotions. This had to do with the fact that the heart, more-or- less, is in the center of our bodies and that all roads, or blood vessels, seemed to lead there.
Since many considered love to be the strongest emotion of them all (come on, who among us hasn’t done something stupid due to love?), the heart began to be written about as the seat of love…see: ”I love you with so much of my heart, that none is left to protest.” – Beatrice to Benedict in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing for just one example.
Since then, we’ve become more enlightened as to the true function of the heart, perhaps as a result of the Enlightenment…perhaps not. It serves one vitally important purpose and one purpose only, to pump oxygenated blood to all our muscles and organs and it does this by beating an incredible 115,000 times every day! Since your heart health is a matter of life or death, perhaps we should take better care of it and here are five tips to do just that.
- Quit or don’t start smoking. The chemicals found in commercial tobacco products damage your heart and blood vessels by causing a narrowing of the arteries due to plaque build up. This restricts the flow of that oxygenated blood to all those muscles and organs. Smoking also causes carbon monoxide to force out some of the oxygen in your blood. Both effects increase your blood pressure and cause your heart to work harder to deliver the necessary amount of oxygen to your body.
- Get moving. No surprise here, regular aerobic exercise (defined as at least 30 minutes most days of the week) is good for your heart and helps control your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight. I seem to remember some physics law from high school that said something about bodies at rest tend to stay at rest…yada, yada, yada. So just apply that rule to your body as well. It’s tough to get that sedentary body of yours (mine too) up and moving, but once you do, it’s easy to keep it moving for at least 30 minutes…I think that rule has a second part about bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. I’ll Google it later.
- Maintain a heart healthy diet. No surprise here either…fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fiber, lean meats and fish, these are some of your heart’s favorite things. Salt, sugar (especially processed), trans and saturated fats, these are NOT some of your heart’s favorite things. One way to avoid these things is to read food labels on a regular basis and learn the recommended daily allowances. For example, vegetable juice, what most consider to be a healthy drink, can have up to 700 milligrams of salt per 8 ounces. The FDA recommends we consume no more than 2,300 mgs of salt per day. Read those labels!
- Get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Those who do not have higher risks of obesity, heart attack, diabetes, and depression. I can remember when my kids were cute little babies and not the crazed tweens they are now, my wife and I made sleep a priority in their lives (model parents, right? Probably not). Come hell or high water, they went to sleep at the same time every night. No late night, drunken parties for them, ever. If you’re not getting that 7-9 hours every night, you might want to reconsider your priorities. Just sayin’…a phrase my adorable tweeners keep repeating.
- Stay or get social. Ok, this one is a bit of a surprise. Numerous studies have linked loneliness to depression and physical health problems. One Swedish study conducted by Ikea (I jest, of course) followed 17,000 people and found that the ones with the fewest number of social contacts had a 50% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. So what’s going on here? Medical and psychological professionals believe that friends and family serve as stress relievers, which helps control your blood pressure, which is good for your heart as well.
Interested in reading more? Here’s MagicKitchen.com’s link to other articles that deal with maintaining good heart health: http://www.magickitchen.com/news/heart.html