It’s Valentine’s month – got a heart on?
Published Thursday, 04-Feb-2010 in issue 1154
Every year at this time there is a ridiculous amount of commercial attention placed on the status of your heart – is it broken, lonely, filled, overflowing, fragile or hardened? Just how much chocolate does it take to mend a wounded heart? How many flowers prove one heart loves another? How many sappy love songs confirm no one has the answers to the mystery of this thing we call love that supposedly comes from our heart?
If this crazy, overexploited holiday gets you thinking about your heart, then the most important question to ask yourself this month is: “How strong is my heart?” I don’t mean strong as in resilient. We’ve all been through a few daisies (“he/she loves me -loves me not”) and ultimately get over it. What I mean is how well is your heart performing? In some studies it’s been said a healthy heart can produce enough energy in an hour to lift a one-ton car. That may be hard to comprehend considering your heart weighs less than a pound, but it’s a busy little muscle with more things to do than a hungry mosquito at a nude beach.
Simply put, your heart pumps blood around your body. The blood provides your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. It also carries away waste. If your heart is unable to pump the amount of blood required to meet all of your body’s needs, blood is diverted away from less-crucial areas including your arms and legs in order to supply the heart and brain. When this happens you will often begin to feel weak and tired and simple, ordinary activities such as walking, climbing stairs or carrying groceries will begin to feel exhausting. Who has time for that?
The good news here is that unless you have some pre-diagnosed heart condition, you have control over how healthy your heart can be. Yes, you have the power to create a healthy heart through what you choose to put in your mouth, how you choose to use your body and the life you choose to live.
Unless you‘ve been living under a rock for the last, let’s say ten years or so, you should have some idea of the do’s and don’ts of eating healthy. It’s practically impossible to screw it up if you just use some common sense. Did it grow in the ground? Good. Is it wrapped in plastic? Not so good. Did you get a 2 for 1 deal at the drive through? Run Toto Run!
You are what you eat – and that is not a cliché. We live in a world of convenience with quick bites and fast foods practically knocking on our doors. Unfortunately, the “good for you” food isn’t always around. Sometimes you have to search it out and that takes way too much of our precious allotted time for our feeding frenzy. But if you will simply make a daily effort to put fresh clean food in your body on a regular basis, the occasional slip of those pre-packaged, lip smackin’, preservative-laden foods will not be as bad for you as regular ingestion of them.
Now back to your heart. Your heart is a muscle and to make it stronger it needs to be trained just like all the other muscles in your body. You do that by getting your heart pumping, by moving with vigor and energy. I know some of you think treadmills, stair climbers and cross trainers are the devil’s spawn, but under all that equipment, sweat and dedication exists healthy hearts, striving to maintain or improve their ability to sustain lives.
There are endless ways to raise your heart rate and strengthen your heart and they don’t have to be regimented to a piece of equipment. James Brown suggested many years ago: “Get up off that thang and dance til you feel better!” I agree. Dance! It frees the soul and is a great way to express yourself at the same time. Walk the dog, skate, swim, play tennis, take a bike ride or just pucker up with your Valentine; turns out that even a good roll in the hay has its cardio advantages!
Living as stress free as possible is one of the best ways you can protect your heart. All too often we get way too caught up in the daily little nuisances that trip us up and raise our blood pressure: bad drivers, bad breath, irritating co-workers, annoying sounds, lost homework, lost causes, lost keys, long lines, short patience, and the list goes on. These things add up daily and can cause stress to your heart’s performance without you even being aware of it. Try your best to just laugh things off when you can, like you do when you’re watching your favorite sitcom and these things happen to someone else.
Nuisances, however you define them, will be with us for a long time. Get over them and get into yourself. Lighten up and live longer. If you’re going to harbor things in your heart, make sure the things you hold close to you are positive and worth holding on to. Your heart’s chamber has plenty of room for good company to take with you wherever you go. Leave the stress behind so your heart can thrive.