With Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s safe to say that love is in the air. And while you’re busy thinking of ways to show your sweetheart how much you care, your own sweet heart is beating steadfastly on and on for you. As a matter of fact, your heart beats about 100,000 times a day. Now that’s true devotion!
An Awesome Organ
You already know that your heart holds the huge responsibility of pumping blood to all the different parts of your body, giving them the fuel they need to function. But did you know that, when lined up all together, the network of blood vessels in your entire body measures tens of thousands of miles long? That’s the road your blood must travel every single time your heart beats—so it takes a lot of strength and dedication for your heart to carry out its mission each day.
Amazingly, the unique type of muscle that makes up your heart allows it to do its job without any input from your brain. So while it’s working ceaselessly to keep your body going, your mind is free to relax and do other things. (Responsible, strong, dedicated, and selfless. Clearly your heart deserves sincere appreciation!)
Don’t Be Heartless
Despite usually being a star employee, your heart can give up and give out if its working conditions become too difficult. Disorders like atherosclerosis and high blood pressure damage the heart’s structures and make it harder for the heart to do its job. And since heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, our hearts must often feel taken for granted!
Your heart works 24/7/365 with no breaks and no overtime pay, and it can’t exactly look for a less stressful job elsewhere. It’s up to you to treat your heart like the loyal worker it is and make sure it’s well-cared for. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to make things easier for your hardworking heart.
Give Your Heart Some ❤
If you already have some form of heart disease, you can delay its progression (and if you don’t have it, you can prevent it) by making a few changes to your lifestyle. Here are three proven ways to show your heart you care:
- Quit smoking. The harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke weaken your arteries and reduce the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream, which only adds to your heart’s workload. Smoking makes your heart so sick and tired that if you do it, you’re basically doubling your risk of heart attack. Quitting (or never starting to begin with) is the simplest and most effective way to prevent premature death or disease. For resources to help you kick the butts, visit the American Heart Association’s “Quit Smoking” site.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. A diet low in sodium and saturated fat will help you treat high blood pressure and prevent the buildup of arterial plaque that leads to heart disease. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends the DASH diet for optimal heart health. (And when we say “diet,” we don’t mean you have to live off celery sticks and coconut water for the rest of your life—check out our infographic to see what a typical day on the DASH diet looks like, or download the NHLBI’s DASH Eating Plan for a more in-depth guide.)
- Get some exercise. To improve your heart’s overall health, the AHA recommends getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, five days a week. If your schedule is already jam-packed, don’t worry; research shows you’ll get the same benefits even if you split your daily fitness regime into two 15-minute or three 10-minute segments throughout the day. An easy way to start is by taking a brisk walk during breaks at the office. If that’s not feasible, turn your evening TV time into a workout by stepping up and down during commercial breaks—you can build a step platform yourself or buy one on Amazon for around $25.
There’s one last thing you should know before you close your browser window: The symptoms of heart disease and heart attack differ between men and women, and it’s important for you and your sweetie to understand how so that you can both be better advocates for your hearts’ health and well-being.
If you’re stumped for a suitable gift to prove your love to your sweetie this Valentine’s Day, give them the gift of good health by pledging to share a lifestyle that will keep both your hearts beating together for a long time to come.