February is heart month. One month a year to concentrate on one of the most important organs in the body, seems appropriate. After all, the heart is the major pump located in our bodies and without a beating heart, life ceases to exist.
Therefore, this week ten matters of the heart will be highlighted. These heart matters may provide you with practical information leading you toward creating a healthier lifestyle for the heart. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
#1 Among other functions, our heart transports the oxygen, delivered from the lungs to the viscera and throughout the body. Consequently, although technically the lungs are the most limiting factor since without oxygen we cannot breathe, the heart is a close second.
#2 The heart is a muscle. And, as such, it may atrophy (i.e. decrease in size) or it may go through hypertrophy (i.e. increase in size). The stronger and larger the heart (there are conditions of enlarged heart which may be detrimental, but that is not what we are presenting here), the more efficiently and effectively it may be able to function.
#3 Therefore, as the reversibility principle states—if you don’t use it, you will lose it!
#4 Being active is critical to heart health. The heart muscle is positively stressed, then it adapts to that stress, within reason, and then it will need to experience the stress and adaptation process throughout life (i.e. progressive overload principle).
#5 When discussing health singularly, being active (i.e. taking 13,000/steps a day) is a good rule of thumb. However, if we are focusing upon fitness, this is a different level of activity. In general, for there to be an appreciable improvement in the fitness level of your heart, if possible, you should be performing a regular, well-designed, consistent exercise program that includes all five components of physical fitness (i.e. cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition).
#6 What you place into your mouth is also very important to consider. Eating healthy, nutrient dense foods in the correct quantity and quality for your specific body’s physiology will ultimately impact the health and fitness of your heart.
#7 Genetic pre-disposition must be considered when examining matters of the heart. We are born with a specific DNA and this may impact our heart health. If you have been diagnosed with genetic heart disease, you will need to be assessed by your physician and perhaps a cardiologist to develop a care protocol for your specific needs.
#8 While it may not seem like a “big deal” when you are younger, what you do now may impact your heart health and fitness later in life even without a genetic link. Therefore, treating your heart well is advised throughout life beginning in youth!
#9 Your heart also needs rest and recovery. Planning a day every week when you “take it down a notch” through meditation, yoga, massage therapy and just peace and quiet will serve your heart well.
#10 With heart disease a major killer in our country, not just during heart month, but every month of the year, consider matters of the heart a major priority for yourself, your family, and the community around you.