Happy Heart Month!
This month is National Heart Health Month and our #COMMITYOURHEART Movement at Be Totally Fit for Life! If you’ve noticed red dresses around the ‘net, hopefully you realize it’s not because of Valentine’s Day. It is about Heart Health Awareness.
As many of you know, but some of you will discover, I have an autoimmune disease that affects my heart and blood vessels. In 2017 I landed in the hospital with a heart attack caused by an intense coronary artery spasm. It was aggravated by using an Epipen for a possible allergic reaction. I can assure you that feeling like someone grabbed my heart and squeezed it tightly for a solid two hours wasn’t in my plans that day. Much to my credit, however, the heart catheterization showed my arteries were super clean. Regular cardio exercise and eating heart-healthy foods really paid off, or it could have been a tragic event. I can also assure you that walking up steps shortly after a heart cath is no stroll through the park. Nope. Heart problems can occur in healthy people, but it’s not the norm. It’s the exception.
It seems that knowing someone who had a heart attack and learning the details about it should motivate most people to exercise and eat healthy. Even in the face of knowledge, many Americans avoid exercise while indulging fat-drenched foods like that bacon-laden quarter pound cheeseburger—slathered in mayo. No one can live like that for long without paying the price. It will catch up with you, that’s for sure. I think the reason many people continue to ignore warnings about eating unhealthy foods and the lack of exercise damaging the heart is because the consequences aren’t noticed until much later. The payback is lurking in the background for certain, but until the doctor tells them to make lifestyle changes and hands them a prescription for medications, it isn’t real yet.
I invite you to take care of your heart: physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. First, let Jesus dwell in your heart, as I wrote last week in #COMMITYOURHEART: St. Valentine’s-Style Love. Second, take care of your physical heart. If you think about it, the heart is an amazing bioelectrical pumping machine. It pumps blood throughout a complex system of arteries, veins, and blood vessels to all areas of your body. In general, it beats 60-100 beats per minute from shortly after conception until death (NIH). Like clockwork. That is until a monkey wrench is thrown into the works. God created this wonderful organ to keep oxygen and nutrients flowing through our veins to live. Yet we often don’t think about what harm we do to it until we are faced with high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and more. What if we treated it as the amazing life-sustaining organ that it is? What if we honored God by taking care of it so we can serve Him and people effectively?
Prevention of heart disease is extremely important. If you want your ticker to keep on ticking well for the rest of your life, then some lifestyle changes are in order. According to the American Heart Association, here are some easy ways to do your part:
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Our bodies rebuild cells while we sleep, which includes the cells of our hearts. Without that renewal time, we shorten our lives and create stress on our hearts.
- Reduce your stress. Manage your stressors of those you can control, then give God control over the ones you can’t change.
- Consume heart-healthy foods. Whole-grain carbs, lean proteins, a variety of vegetables and fruits, six eight-ounce glasses of water per day, and while reducing highly processed foods protect your heart from damage. Oh, and leave the salt shaker in the cabinet to avoid oversalting food.
- Get moving. Strengthen your heart muscle-organ. Regular aerobic exercise reduces blood pressure and gets more oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.
- Get and give hugs. Oxytocin is a powerful stress reducer. We feel comfort and less anxious when we get and give hugs. (Harvard Health)
- Express gratitude to God for what you have. Although the American Heart Association isn’t a Christian group, they recognize gratitude as heart-healthy. Whenever we can be thankful for what God has done or given us, rather than dwelling on the negatives of life, cortisol drops which keeps us from feeling like we are constantly in emergency mode. Knowing God is in control brings great peace.
- Dedicate a day of rest with God and family. Downtime is important for us to recharge. Regardless if it is Sunday, Saturday, or a day off from work, spend dedicated time with God while relaxing with family. (Inc.com)
- Develop a sense of humor. God’s Word says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 NIV. You don’t have to become a comedian, but looking at the humorous side of life certainly improves heart health by reducing stress chemicals in your body (University of Michigan Health).
- Help others. Nothing helps to keep perspective on life like helping people with their needs. When we are busy looking up and out, we are no longer held captive to despair. Our hearts have good reason to keep pumping well for a very long time.
- Guard your heart. God’s Word tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 and “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7. We worry less because Satan doesn’t control our thoughts which leads to unhealthy attitudes, words, and actions. We stress less and sleep well at night knowing all is well.
Commit your heart to the Lord in ALL ways and He will bless you abundantly.
American Heart Association, Healthy Living Section. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living
A Day of Rest: 12 Scientific Reason It Works, by Rhett Power. Inc.com, January 1, 2017. https://www.inc.com/rhett-power/a-day-of-rest-12-scientific-reasons-it-works.html
In brief: Hugs heartfelt in more ways than one, by Harvard Health. March 2014.
How the Heart Works, National Institute of Health. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/how-heart-works
The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®