What have you done for your heart lately?

We all play favourites. We look at the attractive, we hang out with the most fun and we take for granted the reliable and dependable in our lives that are always there day after day.

What is your favourite organ? You may not choose two of the most important — your brain and heart, but the rest of you couldn’t survive without them.
With every beat, your heart keeps every cell of your body alive, pumping blood freshly oxygenated by your lungs. If your heart stopped pumping or an artery was blocked, you would suffer a stroke, blindness, organ failure or the loss of your legs.

So take a moment to think about your heart. What have you done for it lately?

You can increase your odds for a long and happy life by thinking about your heart as you should your most important relationships. Are you paying attention? Are you showing care each day? Are you working to make it great?

1. Listening (for trouble)

Sometimes, it’s obvious when something is wrong — irregular heart beats with lightheadedness; pain or pressure on exertion in your chest, throat or arms.

Sometimes the signs are subtle and mistaken for normal aging — or being married a long time: fatigue or exhaustion, feeling out of shape and short of breath, calf pain while walking, and decreased sexual function.

Before considering vitamins, Viagra or marriage counselling, see your doctor.

2. How do you care for your heart?

The best predictors of your future health are (1) the health of your parents and (2) the habits you practise today.

If a parent or sibling had heart surgery, a heart attack or heart failure, you should ask your doctor to assess your personal risk factors, including high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Are you living a life that minimizes risks? Care for your heart by limiting salt, alcohol and a lazy, leisurely lifestyle. Don’t sacrifice long term health for short-term pleasure.

Enjoy the rewards of daily healthy living. Eat more fruits and vegetables and other foods that really make you feel good. If you can sit, stand. If you can stand, walk. If you can walk: run, swim or cycle.

Butt out, get outside and live.

3. Make a good thing great

Why settle for good enough when you can get great? You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone, and you don’t know great ’til you’ve got it. Your heart is another muscle you can train. Unless you’ve already been a world-class athlete, none of us knows what we can achieve.

When you’re fit and strong, everyday life is easier. You’ll have plenty of energy to shop, clean, mow the lawn, get out and dance. Everyday tasks — climbing a flight of stairs, lifting and moving — become effortless and fast.

For those with heart disease or its risk factors, Healthy Heart programs in your community can safely move you to your fittest state.

Be the best you can be today.

To learn more about heart disease, come to my next free public lecture March 30, 7 p.m. at the Alan Emmott Centre, 6650 Southoaks Cresc. in South Burnaby. Register online with lcullen@divisionsbc.ca or call Leona at 604-259-4450.

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