It’s officially American Heart Month! Did you know the first Friday of February is always designated as a “Go Red,” day? This is the day where the nation joins together to show outwardly the growing need to educate and raise awareness for 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. While Go Red® is often a campaign about women’s heart health, all humans are at risk.
That muscle in your chest, “the heart,” is built of four chambers that not only pump 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 slow, others have hearts that pump too fast, sometimes people have hearts that alternate between the two! But it 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 slowly come up, and then as we cooldown 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. For some 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 lends 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 down stairs, it might be a warning sign your heart is becoming too stressed. Lowering your body weight might be the key to improving your heart health.
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 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, maintaining 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. We are also hosting a special GO RED® Drums and Dance Workout this Friday, Feb 4th at 5:30 pm at The Wellness Center to raise money for the American Heart Association. This workout starts with Drums Alive® and ends with Zumba® and is open to anyone ages 15+ with a suggested donation of $10/person.
Let’s keep each other encouraged this month to take our heart health seriously. It’s a great time to keep each other accountable and motivated to make healthy steps towards a healthier heart by moving more, eating well, working on stress management, and making that annual wellness visit to our health care providers a priority. When you see someone in red this month, let that be your reminder to work towards greater heart health. Don’t forget to wear your red too, because you might be just the reminder that someone else needs to get motivated! Wear Red, Red Matters!
Director Of The Wellness Center