With all this attention on the luvy-dovey heart stuff in February, what about taking time for our real, life-giving, blood-pumping heart as well? This thought was brought home to me when opening my mail one day last week. One of my letters was a valentine I received from participating in a Valentine Swap. Instead of it being the cutesy, frilly type of valentine that I was expecting, this card featured the shadow of an actual human heart. Interesting, I thought. Not your typical valentine wish. But then again, why not? After all, without a living, beating heart inside of us, we couldn’t love or play or think or move or do anything. Everything we are and everything we do, is owed to that miraculous organ so why not feature it on a valentine card?
Another reminder that I owe everything to my thump-thump, thump-thump heart also recently came in my mail. Every year in February, I get an invitation to contribute to the American Heart Association. Since heart disease is the NUMBER ONE killer of women and I am a woman, I willingly and thankfully send in my donation to help fight this horrible disease. I am so committed to this cause, that one year, I even served as my neighborhood captain and collected donations from all of my neighbors.
There is one more reason why I feel so compelled to participate in this worthy cause: my Grandmother Dorothy. She passed away at the age of 55 due to complications with her heart. Whenever I make a contribution, I do it with my grandmother in mind. I was only 6 years old when she died and really hardly knew her. From all that I have heard, she was a pretty neat lady. What better way to say “I Love You, Grandmother,” then by contributing to helping find the cause that shortened her life.
I am dedicated to doing anything and everything to keep my heart strong. I want to live a long, healthy life and do something that my grandmother was not able to do: be around to see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren (?) grow up and be an active part of their lives. This is my motivation to take care of my heart and I am pretty sure that you, my devoted reader, feel the same way. So, what can we all do every day to help our hearts out? According to my health insurer, Kaiser Permanente, there are three simple things any woman can do to keep her heart in good shape:
1) Eat Dark Chocolate-No kidding. Dark chocolate helps to keep your blood pressure down and your blood flowing. I am not a big fan of dark chocolate. It is too bitter for my taste. I do enjoy a Mounds bar now and then. I will have to work on acquiring a taste for this heart saving tip.
2) Move to the beat-Do whatever you can to keep moving: walk, dance, any aerobic exercise. This kind of activity will increase blood circulation, reduce stress, and protect your heart. I love to walk; I try to get in a 3 – 5 mile walk twice a week. When I’m not walking, I do some other form of aerobics (step is a favorite) on 4 other days of the week.
3) Do things you enjoy– Slow down with reading, painting, writing, yoga, and meditation. It will lower your breathing rate and your blood pressure which are both good for your body and heart. I adore reading and always have a book going. I do yoga on Monday mornings to get out the kinks from a weekend of chores and sitting in church. And keeping up with this blog helps to refine my writing skills.
What signs should you look out for in case of a heart attack? Some heart attacks are sudden and intense where no one doubts what is happening. The kind of stuff you see on TV. But most heart attacks start out slowly, with only mild pain or discomfort. The biggest problem occurs when people ignore or downplay the subtle signs and wait too long before getting help. Those types of signs include chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Even if you are not sure if it is the real deal or not, still have your symptoms checked out. MINUTES MATTER!!! Fast action saves lives. Don’t wait more than five minutes to call 9-1-1. This is the fastest way to get life saving treatment.
I tend to be one of the “waiter” kind when it comes to health issues. I am more afraid that I will miss diagnose my ailments and then be labeled a medical “whiner” or a “wimp” then acting on my symptoms. What this research is telling me is to forget the fear of the label and get help immediately if I am experiencing these types of signs. NO MATTER WHAT.
Life still has so much to offer for all of us. Our possibilities are endless. But it requires a healthy heart to keep it all going. Let’s not take our wonderful hearts for granted and give them a hand in being able to function at their best.