The beating and ticking that keeps us running, the heart. A vital organ that we can often take for granted and forget that it needs care too. It is an incredible part of the human body when you think about it. This small collection of muscle is made up of four chambers, two that hold the incoming blood (atria) and two that pump the blood back out (ventricles) as a system of valves control the direction of the blood flow. The sound of the beat is actually the contractions and shutting of the valves and one full contraction equals one beat. All of this action is part of what keeps us alive. It’s quite beautiful in my opinion. So, how can we show love to the organ that is known for giving us love in return? Be conscious of diet, exercise, and stress levels.
Diet is the first and foremost way to battle and prevent heart disease. Mayo clinic and the National Institute on Aging suggest a diet that is high in fiber, low in sugars, salt, and saturated fats. This means eating lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins that will help to keep plaque buildup to a minimum. In addition, drinking plenty of water is great for the heart and keeping alcohol consumption low is important. And of course, no smoking! Smoking increases your chances of a heart attack, stroke, and cancer as well as causes damage to the artery walls. Quitting smoking, at any point, can lower your chances of disease.
Exercise is vital to a healthy heart. Remember that the heart is a muscle so the more you work it out, the stronger it will get. From the many articles that I have read, it’s said that something as simple as walking can have great benefits. It is recommended that we take 10,000 steps a day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. According to Harvard Medical Publishing, studies have found that those with flexible arteries, when the blood flows freely, have lower risk and adding 1,000 per day to your routine has measurable improvements to your arteries. This makes sense because if you think about an artery that has plaque along the walls makes for a stiffer pathway and the blood will not be able to travel as efficiently.
Lastly, keeping our stress levels low can keep our heart healthy. The more chronic stress we endure, the more likely it is that we will experience anxiety, depression, isolation, and anger. All of these can contribute to cardiac risk. Stress is insidious and effects all parts of our lives. Having coping skills and taking preventative measures allows us to combat the negative physiological impacts. If you find yourself with an unusual amount of emotional stress, consider talking with someone you trust, family, friends, or a professional. Learning relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and yoga can provide great stress relief. The American Heart Association emphasizes getting enough sleep to keep stress low and heart health high. Moreover, they suggest that nurturing yourself through hobbies and things that make you happy and calm can improve overall health.
Let’s keep our heart health in mind when we commit to healthy lifestyle choices. This remarkable organ is the main key to our lifeline. As it takes care of us, we need to show it love in return.
By: Kathryn Chambers
Olive Branch Counseling Associates