13 February 2020
In February, we tend to think about love more than we do in other months of the year.
Though there is no physiological connection between the heart and the emotion of love, the heart has become the international symbol of love. A graphic of a heart is present on virtually every Valentine’s Day card. If you’re in love, your heart is full. If you’ve lost a loved one, your heart is broken. However, as a vital organ in the human body, the heart is not about love, but about life.
Here are a few simple ways to keep your heart healthy this Valentine’s month:
Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke
Chemicals in cigarettes and the smoke produced by them cause negative changes in blood cells. This has the potential to decrease heart and lung function. Damaged cells can also build up in blood vessels causing blockages which can lead to chest pain, heart attacks and ultimately death.
Don’t sit so much
Some health experts have coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” and with good reason. The Pennington Biomedical Research Center states that even regular exercise cannot completely negate damage done by extended periods of sitting. Research has shown that in the past decade, inactivity was linked to more cardiovascular disease and death than smoking.
Get enough sleep
Average sleep duration has exponentially decreased over the past 50 years. Most medical professionals would advocate getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but the average person gets six hours or less. Studies published recently in the European Heart Journal have shown that “short sleepers” have a 48% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease when compared to their counterparts that get eight hours or more of sleep.
Practise good oral hygiene
We all know that we’re supposed to brush our teeth and floss regularly, but did you know that a clean mouth can also protect your heart? Germs in the mouth can be carried to the heart through the bloodstream and cause inflammation in the cardiac tissues. Conditions such as gingivitis can significantly increase the risk for heart disease.
Eat good fats
Fats are an essential part of a healthy diet. Fats are necessary for nerve and muscle health and ultimately our heart is a muscle. However, it’s better for your health and your heart to consume more monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats versus trans fats.
To find out more about how to achieve your rehabilitation goals, contact a healthcare professional at Align.
This article first appeared in the February 2020 print edition of Camana Bay Times with the headline “Align with wellness: Love your heart.”
About the author
Kristina Maxwell is a doctor of physiotherapy at Align, a wellness studio with an integrated approach to physical rehabilitative treatments and preventative care.