Sure, your heart can be broken, leaving you sad and blue. Some studies have shown that people can die of a broken heart. You’ve read those stories on the Internet, haven’t you? These are the stories about those couples who have been married and devoted to each other for decades. Either the husband or wife dies, and the other soon follows, sometimes within days or even hours.
Our view tends to be that our brain is home to thought and logic, and our heart is home to our feelings. So without a heart we would be like ‘Data’ from that old television show, Star Trek, the Next Generation – intelligent, observant, and logical; but lacking happiness, compassion, and love. What kind of life would that be?
Then there’s the physical equivalent of a broken heart.
Our heart is unarguably the most important muscle in our body. It’s an organ that’s not much larger than our fist, yet it continually pumps blood to our brain and other organs day and night. We take it for granted. Yet almost half of the deaths in the U.S. are caused by heart disease. As you probably know, heart disease is actually a category of conditions that include coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation, heart attack, and more.
Many of these conditions that lead to our broken hearts are preventable. It’s all up to us to take that first step.
• Get a heart wellness screening, even as early as in your twenties. Signs of heart disease can show up at young ages, especially if there’s a family history. This is offered at hospitals and is a program that involves several tests and provides you with a risk assessment for heart disease.
• Lose weight, especially if you have excess fat around the waist. However, even if you’re thin, it doesn’t mean you’re safe from heart disease – some people are skinny on the outside, but if they make bad food choices, they’re building up fat on the inside. It’s a myth that thin people don’t have high cholesterol and other risk factors that lead to life-threatening heart conditions.
• Get up from that couch! Have you ever read about the sitting disease? The gist of it is that we sit too darn much, and all this sitting is bad for the ticker. Turn off the television. Schedule time for physical activity and get your kids to join you also. Walk, rum, bicycle, swim, play tennis; heck, play hopscotch or jump rope. Oh yeah, don’t forget weight training.
• Fill that refrigerator with healthy fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, yogurt, skim milk, good fats – you know the drill. Our heart needs those vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and probiotics that healthy foods provide. We may love all those highly processed junk foods, but our hearts are dying from them.
• Learn to control type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and other things that break our hearts. Your doctor can provide you with specific diets, exercise plans, and, if necessary, prescription medications to help control these conditions.
• Quit smoking. I’m sure you’ve heard that smoking cigarettes not only causes cancer, but also clogs up our arteries and is the primary cause of coronary artery disease. This, along with all the poisons that cigarettes contain, makes it even more important to butt out.
Heart health is so important – we don’t have a spare heart sitting around in a closet somewhere, ticking away and collecting dust. If we want to live our lives filled with vim, vigor, and vitality, we need to do all we can to keep our hearts pumping efficiently.
Finally, think about your family history: did your mother or father suffer from high blood pressure, heart attacks, or strokes? Then ask yourself if that’s the way you want to live out your “golden years.” If it’s not, take that first step toward heart health. It’s up to us to repair our broken hearts.