Each year at this time there’s a huge 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, which seemingly comes from our heart?
If this love struck holiday gets you thinking about the status of 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 we ultimately get over it.
What I mean is how efficiently is your heart performing? With each heartbeat your heart pumps blood around your body. Blood provides your body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function and it also carries away waste. The average heartbeat is 72 times per minute. In the course of one day it beats over 100,000 times. In one year the heart beats almost 38 million times, and by the time you are 70 years old it beats an average of 2.5 billion times. That may be hard to comprehend considering your heart weighs less than a pound, but it’s a busy little muscle with more work to do than a hungry mosquito at a nude beach.
If your heart is unable to pump the amount of blood required to meet all of your body’s needs, then 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. Then, simple, ordinary activities such as walking, climbing stairs or carrying groceries will begin to feel exhausting.
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 eat, how you choose to use your body and the life you choose to live.
You are what you eat and that is not a cliché. (Think about that the next time you reach for a Ding Dong!) 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. But if you will simply make a daily effort to put fresh, clean food in your body on a regular basis there is a higher chance t your arteries won’t get clogged up with junk and your heart will be able function efficiently.
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 or on a tree and are you eating it in as close to its natural state as it can be, like an apple? Good. Is it wrapped in plastic, like a caramel apple? Not so good. Did you get a 2 for 1 deal at the drive through, like fried apple pies? Run Toto Run!
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 sweat and dedication on these machines can help create healthy hearts.
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; because 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 and can cause stress to your heart’s performance without you even being aware of it. Try your best 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 don’t let them get the best of you, it’s not worth the stress and potential damage you can do to your heart. Instead, lighten up and live longer. If you’re going to harbor things in your heart, make sure the things you hold close are positive and worth holding on to. Leave the stress behind so your heart can thrive. Your heart has plenty of room for good company.
Area Group Fitness Director
Fit Athletic Club