Yay! It’s here! The time to profess your love of anything – that candy-coated chocolate holiday, better known as Saint Valentine’s Day. Which means: groove is in the heart, and according to Drew Barrymore’s recently released book of heart photography – you can “Find it in Everything.” I’m sensing a theme….
Well, I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter, and what I discovered is that February is Heart Health Awareness Month, an opportunity to bring attention to the importance of heart disease prevention. Prevention indeed. Contrary to popular belief, heart disease is not always a predetermined destiny. The American Heart Association reports 80% of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented through lifestyle change. 80 percent! That means you are in the drivers seat. So, where are you headed? Destination: healthy heart or Destination: total eclipse of the heart?
Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the US and costs this country $108.9 billion a year. Ouch! People with certain risk factors are at higher risk of developing heart disease, but keep in mind that not all people with heart disease have risk factors.
Ten Risk Factors
Age: Over 65 years old
Sex: Men have a higher risk for heart attacks
Family History: If your father suffered a heart attack before the age of 50, your risk of heart attack doubles
Race: In America minorities are at a higher risk
Smoking: Stop it! Lighting up quadruples your risk of heart disease
Cholesterol: Keep it below 200
Blood pressure: Ideal blood pressure is 120/80
Inactivity: Get up and move
Weight: Be honest with yourself, obesity is a big deal. Check your BMI http://www.webmd.com/diet/calc-bmi-plus
Diabetes: Increased risk of stroke and heart attack…across the board – diabetes sucks!
Get ready for a change of heart. There are four major lifestyle adjustments that are key to getting on the expressway to heart health:
Exercise – move for at least 20 minutes, five days a week
De-stress – at least 10 minutes a day for de-stressing
Diet – everybody’s got a hungry heart, pay attention to what you are eating
Another Little Piece of the Heart Health Story
WARNING: This is where the discussion goes from clinical to touchy-feely.
Talking about the physical heart without acknowledging the emotional heart would be a half-hearted attempt to tell the real story of heart….and soul (cue The Chopsticks Song).
Anatomical hearts are a bit slimy, veiny and wiggly. Whereas symbolic hearts look like the tiny lipstick print of a kiss. Right? Heart symbols first made an appearance over eight hundred years ago in a French Roman manuscript. Since then those sweet little things are everywhere – ancient artwork, playing cards and of course emoji – a representation of all kinds of love. Whether you have a heart of glass, a heart of gold or a cold cold heart – when you see that heart shaped symbol, you know what it means.
But why should the heart represent love? Why not a kidney? Some theories suggest it’s because when we pay close attention, we can actually feel and locate our physical response to emotions…and for most people the physical response to love is in the middle of the chest, etc.
When disgusted by cruelty do you get a stomachache? That makes me sick to my stomach…
When mentally overwhelmed do you get a headache? My head is going to explode…
When emotionally affected do you get heartache? My heart is breaking…
Speaking of heartbreak – you know, the same thing that in mild forms inspires loss of appetite and sleeping all day at the Heartbreak Hotel? In more severe forms it’s a medical condition called Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, or Broken Heart Syndrome, which can occur after severe stressful emotional trauma (e.g. betrayal, the loss of a loved one, divorce). The body responds to the emotional stress by releasing stress hormones that can cause chest pain, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat. Where do broken hearts go? Well, it’s not a heart attack but the symptoms are identical, so go straight to the ER for a medical evaluation. Yep! The heartache of heartbreak is no joke. Most people recover in a few days.
There is little doubt that the mind body connection exists. The healthy benefit of positive thinking has been the topic of hundreds of studies. Less stress on your mind, less stress on the heart. Hint: There is a reason one of the four most effective lifestyle changes in heart disease prevention is de-stress. Our mind and emotions can have both positive and negative unconscious effects on our bodies. And keep communication coming straight from the heart – a study from The Rochester Center of Mind Body Research, at Rochester University Medical Center, claims that maintaining ties with loved ones helps ward off heart disease.
Be still my heart! I’ve just about brought this topic full circle, but let me add a few Sydology tips:
1) If you have concerns or risk factors, get a baseline EKG for future comparison to look for changes in heart function down the road
2) Hormones affect heart function – so changes in mood, emotions and even menopause are important to mention to your healthcare provider
3) Always remember you only have one heart, so remind yourself that ‘my heart belongs to me’, and take care of it!
You’ve gotta have heart, miles ‘n miles n’ miles of heart. Oh, it’s fine to be a genius of course, but keep that old horse before the cart – first you’ve gotta have heart!
~ Richard Adler
Happy Valentine’s Day!…and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.