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Everyone has a heart<br>by Tina Y. Gerber

Whether we are young or old, I think we can all agree, everyone has a heart! What quote comes to mind when you think of the word heart? I have several quotes, but one of my favourites is, “Start each day with a positive thought and a grateful heart.”

February is heart month, a time to bring attention to the importance of your cardiovascular health. The heart is the most important muscle in the human body, and it works 24 hours a day. It’s an organ about the size of your fist which pumps blood through your body. It is estimated, heart disease affects approximately 2.4 million Canadians and is the second leading cause of death in Canada. The first cause of death in Canada is Cancer.

People can keep their heart’s healthy by exercising regularly; improving their cardiovascular health, resulting in lower blood pressure and healthier cholesterol. We should think of exercise as an insurance policy which can protect your heart. Exercise will burn calories, helping you maintain a healthy weight and better regulate blood sugar. An exercise program also promotes positive physiological changes, which aids and, in turn, helps your sympathetic nervous system.

People at risk for heart disease struggle with not knowing whether their arteries contain fatty plaque, possibly causing a heart attack. While doctors can’t change some risk factors, such as family history or age, there are ways we can reduce the risk of heart disease by making some healthy lifestyle choices.

1) One important thing we can do is stop smoking. Cigarette smoke reduces the oxygen in the blood, which increases blood pressure, and your heart has to work harder to supply enough oxygen to the body and brain.

2) Stay physically active, as mentioned above. If you haven’t been active for a while, you will need to work your way up slowly. Just five minutes a day of moving can help. Activities like gardening, taking the stairs and walking the dog are a great start.

3) Eating a healthy and balanced diet can help protect your heart and improve your blood pressure and cholesterol.

A heart-healthy eating plan includes fruits, veggies, beans, whole grains, fish and healthy fats, like olive oil. Did you know fruits and veggies are good for everything from your brain to your bowels!

We have started adding almonds, nuts, and cranberries to our salads for a healthy and tasty crunch. I completely cut out soda and juices, and now I only drink milk and water (black tea). Excess weight can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type two diabetes.

4) Get enough sleep. Individuals who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, heart attack, diabetes and depression. Make sleep a priority in your life. My favourite part of the day is my afternoon nap.

5) Remember finding alternative ways to manage stress can help improve your health. Many are very simple.

When you breathe deeply, this can help you relax. Wash up. Scrubbing well with soap and water is a great way to invigorate and protect your heart and health and to avoid germs.

6) Anger, worry and hostility will contribute to heart disease.

Take a few minutes every day to count your blessings. This will make God smile and your heart happy.

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