February: The Month of the Heart

Give Yours Some Loving Care

The heart is often referred to as the symbol of love. While love is vital to a fulfilling life, a healthy heart is crucial to it.

A healthy heart functions without us having to even think about it. It beats about 100,000 times per day and pumps 1.5 gallons of blood through the body per minute. The more in shape the heart is, the lower the heart rate because a stronger heart can pump more volume per beat.

Made up of its own specialized cells that are not found anywhere else in the body, the heart pumps nutrient- and oxygen-rich blood through the cardiovascular system.

The blood is essentially a delivery system and a garbage truck. It first nourishes us, and then transports toxins and metabolic waste to the kidneys and liver for disposal. Without this vital system, we would all cease to exist.

Unless we develop a problem, we don’t pay much attention to what our heart does for us 24 hours a day. Kind of makes you want to give it a bit more respect, right?

That’s especially true when you hear the statistics that say heart disease and diseases of the cardiovascular system remain the number one reason lives are cut short.

Heart disease can go undetected and be asymptomatic for decades before an incident occurs. No one gets critically ill overnight, which means heart issues cannot be reversed overnight either.

The good news is that we can often help change destiny. While heart disease can be hereditary, it may not necessarily have to dominate one’s landscape.

We do have a lot of control over how healthy we are by taking some simple steps. Small changes can add up to big results over time, especially if there isn’t a major defect that cannot be altered by lifestyle alone.

Most of us know now that the traditional food pyramid we grew up with is completely upside down and antiquated. It has long been thought that reducing fat in the diet was the primary way to reduce heart disease. When it comes to convenience and fast food, I would agree.

The more modern contention is that we should eat food that doesn’t come with labels. Fruit, veggies, nuts and seeds, eggs, meat and fish should dominate your grocery cart. Single-ingredient, nature-made food eliminates the often confusing list of ingredients. Avoiding the inner aisles of the grocery store as much as possible makes this easier.

Cardiovascular exercise is as important to keeping the heart healthy as what we eat.  As little as 30 minutes a day can change your health profile.

So, instead of perpetuating the saying that “we are a nation of people living short and dying long,” let’s get up, get moving and put nutrient-dense foods on our plates to keep that wonderful small, but mighty, organ running its best for as long as possible.

Corie Goodson, MPH, CNC, earned her master’s degree in public health in 1995. She is a health educator, wellness promotion speaker, author and certified nutrition coach.