Cupid and Eros, chocolates and time, a bouquet of red roses for your sweet Valentine—all of this pageantry is perfectly fine . . . for Valentine’s Day.
What about the other 364 days of the year? Or, in the case of 2024 (a leap year), what about the other 365 days?
You can love your heart—the actual blood-pumping, life-sustaining muscular organ—as an act of self-care each day of every year.
What Is Self-Care?
Researchers define self-care as what you do to stay healthy—both your mental and physical health. Self-care includes the actions you take to address any health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.
Since February is recognized as American Heart Health Month, we’re here to provide information on ways to achieve and maintain heart health.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Self-care for your heart is really taking care of your whole self.
You can improve and protect your overall health by striving to do each of the following:
- Get daily physical activity, such as a brisk 30-minute walk.
- Cook meals that are low in sodium.
- Take medications as prescribed and keep medical appointments.
- Sleep 7-8 hours each night.
- Manage stress through yoga, a warm bath, or whatever healthy activity you find relaxing.
- Have fruits and veggies ready for healthy snacks when hunger hits.
- As always, talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise regimen or before taking or stopping any medications.
Fast Facts About the Human Heart
🫀 The heart is considered both a muscle and an organ (an organ
made of nervous tissue, connective tissue, cardiac muscle, and blood).
🫀 A healthy adult heart is about the size of a closed adult fist.
🫀 The heart is located in the center of the chest behind the
🫀 Each heartbeat sends blood that’s rich in oxygen and nutrients
to all parts of the body.
🫀 The heart is the hardest working muscle in the human body
and the primary organ of the circulatory system.
🫀 The heart contains four main sections (chambers) made of
muscle and powered by electrical impulses. The brain and
nervous system direct the heart’s function.
🫀 A typical resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100
beats per minute.
What a Heart Attack Feels Like
Hopefully, you and your loved ones will never experience the pain of a heart attack, but knowing the symptoms may save a life.
Here’s a list of 6 common warning signs:
- Your chest may hurt or feel squeezed, or it may feel like heartburn or indigestion.
- Your arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper stomach may hurt.
- You may feel like you can’t breathe.
- You may feel light-headed or break out in a cold sweat.
- You may feel sick to your stomach.
- You may feel really, really tired.
If you or someone you know are experiencing these symptoms, call 911 for immediate assistance.
With the Heart, Time Saves Lives
According to the American Heart Association, “A heart attack is when blood flow to the heart is blocked. Sudden cardiac arrest is when the heart malfunctions and suddenly stops beating. A heart attack is a ‘circulation’ problem and sudden cardiac arrest is an ‘electrical’ problem.” Both require immediate medical attention, and the quicker the better. The shorter the interval between the onset of chest pain and treatment has been proven in many studies to correlate with survival.
Often referred to as “door-to-balloon time,” angioplasty should ideally be performed within 90 minutes of the time a patient enters the doors of the emergency room. This time frame optimizes outcomes by reducing the amount of damage done to the heart muscle.
Half the deaths from a heart attack (technically termed a “myocardial infarction”) occur in the first 3 or 4 hours after symptoms begin. Cedars Sinai states that it is crucial that symptoms of a heart attack be treated as a medical emergency. A person with these symptoms should be taken to the emergency department of a hospital in an ambulance with trained personnel.
Three Types of Heart Disease and Their Differences
Even though heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, there is a lot we can do to prevent it.
Many people use the following terms interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Here’s a basic guide to understanding the difference between cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and coronary heart disease.
- Cardiovascular disease is a big umbrella term for any type of disease that affects the heart or blood vessels. These can include coronary heart disease (clogged arteries), which can cause heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, and peripheral artery disease.
- Heart disease is a catch-all phrase for a variety of conditions that affect the heart’s structure and function. While all heart diseases are cardiovascular diseases, not all cardiovascular diseases are heart disease. Almost 650,000 Americans die from heart diseases each year.
- Coronary heart disease is often simply called “heart disease,” although it’s not the only type of heart disease. Another name for it is “coronary artery disease.” This is the most common type of heart disease. Did you know? Approximately 366,000 Americans die from this each year.
For more detailed information on the distinctions, causes, and what you can do to maintain heart health, read more here.
Love Your Heart, Love Your Life
We hope you enjoyed Valentine’s Day, but that’s a once a year holiday. Regardless of how you spent the day, you can spend all your days loving your heart—and loving your life.
Understanding risk factors for heart disease and how to live a heart-healthy lifestyle are a part of practicing self-care for #OurHearts.
For free classes on nutrition and exercise, and step challenges for moral support, contact the Active Marion Project at AMP@mchdt.org. We can also bring a free wellness session on Heart Health to your worksite.