It’s officially American Heart Month and while many people use this month of awareness to promote sales, specialty items and overpriced goods in the name of “awareness,” we have nothing to sell you on today! Today we want you to hear the facts, think about how they relate to you and your loved ones and then decide if you could join us in the mission of “Go Red” February 5th.
The first Friday of February is always designated as a “Go Red” day. It’s where the nation joins to show outwardly the growing need to educate and raise awareness about heart disease. The fact is, if you have a heart, heart health matters to you. Your heart isn’t just the center of your chest, it’s the central location that can either increase or decrease your overall health, lifestyle and lifespan.
What does the heart do? That muscle in your chest, built of four chambers not only pumps blood but oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Every little part on your body from your brain to your toes needs blood flow to stay alive. Unfortunately, those with heart disease or underlying heart conditions have a harder time than others when it comes to maintaining that flow of blood and oxygen. Some people have hearts that pump too slowly, others have hearts that pump too fast, sometimes people have hearts that alternate between the two! But if we know that at the center of our health is the heart, we know that a healthy one is very important.
Hearts need to be used. While each person may have different underlying or genetic factors, anyone with a heart is encouraged to care for theirs. One way to show your heart you care is to use it. Hearts need to be used! Hence: exercise! Exercise is a safe and controlled way of getting your heart pumping: literally. The same way that exercise can strengthen your muscles, it can strengthen your heart! When we exercise, our heart rates typically come up slowly, and then as we cool down they slowly come back down. Over time exercise can train your heart to operate better under stress. For those who are able, walking is a great way to start moving and using that heart. It might start by dancing in your seat and working your arms. Great news, our brains love when we use our hearts too! They will reward you with feel-good chemicals that make that heart pumping even more satisfying!
Hearts need proper nutrition. While society may have us thinking that a thin body means a healthy body, our hearts know better. You can’t hide a bad diet from the heart, even if you tend to be on the lean side. Just as those who weigh more, may have a super healthy diet and heart. Everybody is different, so that means everyone’s heart is too. But don’t be fooled, people who have higher fat diets that are filled with cholesterol are often linked to poor heart health or more at risk of hypertension and heart disease. While some fad diets these days promote high fat intake, always talk to your doctor about your own heart health before starting one of these. In general, a balanced diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains lend itself to a healthier heart.
While we aren’t judging books by their cover, or bodies by their size, there is a lot of research and evidence that people who are extremely obese do live in the reality of putting too much pressure on their hearts. Maintaining a healthy weight can also mean maintaining a healthy heart. If you are overweight and notice you have a hard time with physical activity or everyday activities such as going up and downstairs, it might be a warning sign your heart is becoming too stressed. Lowering your body weight might be the key to your heart health success.
You can learn more about your heart health by talking to your doctor. Ask if you have a healthy blood pressure, ask about blood work to check on your cholesterol levels. Be honest with them about your diet, exercise and if you drink alcohol or smoke. Smoking is linked to many diseases and hypertension and heart disease are on the list, along with diabetes, cancer and more. If you are interested in learning more about how to quit smoking, maintain a healthy heart, beating hypertension or how to live with chronic conditions, we have help for you! Check out https://myhealthyvt.org for a bunch of FREE resources and classes.
Lastly, if you want to join us at North Country Hospital and Americans around the country in raising awareness for heart disease, please wear red this Friday. Every first Friday of February is designated as “Go Red” Friday. A sea of red will not only raise awareness and hopefully start some heart-healthy conversations, but it can also honor those battling or lost to heart disease. While 2021 still has us masked and socially distanced, one way we can connect and support each other is by simply wear red this Friday, together.
It’s American Heart Month. Wear Red. Do your research. Take care of yourself! Make and keep your appointments. Eat Well. Move More. Make the investment! Investing in your heart is an investment in your health and longevity. Our health is the greatest gift we will ever receive! Let’s make that gift the healthiest possible. A healthy heart is the gift of a lifetime!
Director Of The Wellness Center