Happy February! It’s American Heart Month which is an important time to raise awareness about heart health and encourage individuals to take proactive steps in protecting their hearts! In Vermont, heart disease holds particular significance as our state contends with a high rate of heart disease and numerous repercussions and related risk factors. Vermonters must recognize the gravity of this issue and prioritize their heart health, not only for their health and well-being but also for the collective welfare of the community. It comes down to everyone getting smart about their heart.

Protecting one’s heart goes beyond mere suggestion; it is a responsibility that individuals owe to themselves and others. The holistic approach to a smart heart encompasses mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, and nutritional aspects. Each day presents an opportunity for everyone to make conscious choices that contribute to having a healthy heart and a healthier community.

Mental and emotional well-being plays a pivotal role in heart health. Chronic stress and negative emotions can have detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system. Vermonters should prioritize activities that promote mental and emotional wellness, such as mindfulness practices, therapy, or engaging in hobbies that bring joy and relaxation. While those around you may make excuses, pride themselves on overworking, or deny stress, you may decide it’s time to get smart! Tackling the thoughts and feelings that aren’t healthfully serving you and embracing ways to reduce your mental and emotional stress can also reduce stress on your heart.

Spiritual well-being is proven to contribute to overall heart health. For many individuals, spiritual practices provide a sense of purpose, hope, and resilience in the face of challenges. Engaging in spiritual activities that foster inner peace and positivity can indirectly benefit heart health. With the advances in technology, people can embrace all sorts of engagement from different types of apps, and websites, attending services, finding groups, and even finding new local resources they didn’t know existed. Vermont is known as being one of the least spiritual states and the CDC reports heart disease is our leading cause of death. The National Library of Medicine published a report on, “Spiritual Well-Being and Depression in Patients with Heart Failure Depression,” citing, “depression is common in patients with chronic heart failure. Around 36.5% of heart failure patients have a depressive disorder, and even more have clinically significant depressive symptoms. In longitudinal studies of patients with heart failure, depression is associated with poor quality of life…and higher mortality. Spiritual well-being is associated with less depression in patients with terminal cancer.” If this can help those battling cancer, perhaps it can help us battle our issues with heart disease too.

It’s no secret physical activity is a cornerstone of heart health and a smart choice. However, it’s just not a choice we are making consistently enough to take care of our hearts. Regular exercise not only strengthens the heart muscle but also helps maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and weight. Everyone should strive to incorporate physical activity into their daily routines. The CDC reports that less than ½ of all people who are able (including those with physical and mobility disabilities) are getting the exercise they need, reporting, “any amount of physical activity that gets your heart beating faster can improve your health. Some activity is better than none.”

Nutrition plays a fundamental role in maintaining a healthy heart. That means the smart heart people are reaching for whole foods rich in nutrients and fiber while minimizing intake of processed and high-fat foods. A smart balanced diet can significantly impact heart health by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Your weight on the scale shouldn’t decide if you should eat heart-healthily. Many people with a “healthy weight,” still aren’t opting for the nutrient-dense and heart-healthy foods that make up a smart heart diet. Eating real food, that grows, walks, and naturally occurs may be just what you need to nourish a healthier heart.

This month is our reminder to safeguard our hearts. Heart disease is stealing the quality and quantity of too many lives around us. By embracing a holistic approach to a smart heart and embracing mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, and nutritional practices, we can change our demographic. Be smart about your heart! Get your checkups, and if you aren’t feeling right and think it’s your heart, get help! Take CPR/AED training to be prepared for an emergency and see if your workplace has an AED machine too. Use this month as a reminder to get smart! Ultimately, prioritizing heart health is not only an individual endeavor but also a collective responsibility toward building a healthier community, and a stronger-hearted world. Get heart smart!


Mary Hoadley

Director Of The Wellness Center