Be careful with your heart: Tips on how to show some TLC for the physical heart

FEBRUARY marks the month wherein Valentine’s Day is celebrated. Tokens of affection — candies, chocolates, flowers and pieces of jewelry — are often seen sprouting around, with lovers exchanging sweet gifts with each other. Specifically commemorated on the 14th day of the month, Valentine’s is often associated with romance, love and matters involving the heart.

The heart is often the metaphor for affection and romance. The organ is the star every month of February, being the default decoration in the celebration of love. More often than not, its figurative representation overpowers its literal one which holds so much meaning in the human body. The heart in its entirety stands out in human anatomy, having more tasks than some of the other organs combined.

The heart works as a pump that allows your blood to stream all over your body bringing with it oxygen and nutrients while leaving carbon dioxide and waste products. Along with blood and blood vessels, it makes up the human circulatory system also known as the body’s transport system. That is why taking care of one’s heart should also be of utmost importance.

Cardiovascular or heart diseases remain the leading global cause of death with more than 17.9 million deaths each year. That number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030.

In the U.S. alone, heart disease is responsible for one in every four deaths; about 735,000 Americans are expected to have a heart attack this year. It is also one of the main causes of death, second only to cancer, for Asian or Pacific Islanders.

High blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including: diabetes, overweight and obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.

However, statistics reveal that about 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases may be preventable with education and prevention.

February is American Heart Health Month — which is meant to raise awareness on the dangers of heart disease and what can be done to reduce the risks.

Here are some tips to help maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle:

Schedule an annual check-up and consultation

Be familiar with the overall status of your body by scheduling an appointment with your doctor to have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked. Ask your doctor to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight with consideration to any past and recent medical conditions. Be sure to follow your healthcare professional’s recommendations, including taking prescribed medications as directed.

Maintain the prescribed healthy weight

Follow the prescribed healthy weight based on the doctor’s prescription. Excess weight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. To achieve steady, painless weight loss, follow a lifestyle of a balanced diet and exercise. Each day, if you eat 200-300 calories less than you would normally consume, and exercise at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week, you’ll get closer to your goal and be able to achieve weight loss that’s steady and painless.

Exercise regularly

Physical inactivity increases the likelihood of obesity and other medical complications. It is advisable to step, march or jog in place for at least 15 minutes on a daily basis. Increase your activity in increments — like five minutes each week — until you get a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week. Your physician can help you create a specific exercise regimen that is right for your specific needs.

Always hydrate and eat healthy

Studies reveal that up to 60 percent of the human body is composed of water. It is a must to take a water bottle with you wherever you go. Consistent rehydration will also help flush out toxins that can be deemed as harmful not only for the heart but for other organs as well. More than keeping one’s body hydrated, the bottle’s weight will also help strengthen one’s arms.

Keeping a healthy diet is not just about the consumption of nutritious food nor the avoidance of junk food. It is equally important to know how to cut off your supply of salty, fatty, cholesterol-rich and diabetes-inducing food. Fruits and veggies, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and whole grains are the most common alternatives to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular and heart diseases.

Quit smoking

Habitual cigarette and tobacco use is harmful to any organs in the human body. Even inhalation of secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer so it is important to refrain from smoking. If one has started smoking, it is essential to gradually quit the habit by cutting off its consumption slowly to avoid withdrawals.

In line with the said tips and precautions, the United States government has also designated an event to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends and communities involved. Aptly placed in the month of February in 1964, the American Heart Month is commemorated to remind the people that cardiovascular diseases know no borders.

The biggest part of living healthy comes down to simply making healthy choices. While you can’t change things like age and family history, the good news is that even modest changes to your diet and lifestyle can improve your heart health and lower your risk by as much as 80 percent.

As Proverbs 4:23 said, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” What the said scripture meant remains a mystery. However, guarding your heart could save you from getting hurt — figuratively and literally.

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