Health & Fitness: Healthy Heart

By Ashley Aragona on September 16, 2012 from Health & Fitness via

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. Helen Keller
“Be still my heart; thou hast known worse than this”. –Homer
Cold hands, warm heart” Old Proverb
I’m sure I don’t need to go on for you to see where I am going with this. The heart; the organ that has the ability to flutter when we fall in love, jump when we are spooked, race when we have a rush of adrenaline, and sadly, hurt when we endure heartbreak. Hence the word…”heartbreak.”
(SIDE NOTE: Doesn’t the picture to the right just tear at your heart strings…whatever those are…but moving on.)
Heart:  The chambered muscular organ in vertebrates that pumps blood received from the veins into the arteries, thereby maintaining the flow of blood through the entire circulatory system.
Think about this for a second. Isn’t it amazing that right now we are all connected because our hearts are all doing the same thing, and we aren’t even thinking about it!  Well, you may be now, but you probably weren’t before!
The heart isn’t just a vital organ to the body because it can react to our emotions, and while I am pretty sure you already knew that, I think it’s important to take a minute to really appreciate what our heart is doing for us, and pay it some respect. I like to think of the heart as our body’s engine. You need to take care of the engine in order for the car to run properly right? So why would we think any different of our body’s “engine?”
Your heart health is essential to the health of all your other organs. Again, think about your car, if your engine is messed up, it can affect other parts of your car; same thing with your heart. It is the organ that is essential for your physical well being and just like your car needs maintenance to run smoothly, so does your heart. Keeping your heart healthy obviously requires getting adequate exercise and eating a healthy diet but it's also important to be aware of your lifestyle as well as cardiovascular disease symptoms, and your family medical history.
This one almost seems too easy, but I have to do it. You wouldn’t put the lowest, cheapest brand of oil in your brand new expensive car so why would you put fatty, artery clogging, plaque inducing foods into your body? The Mayo Clinic recommends limiting saturated and trans fats to help reduce your blood cholesterol. A high blood cholesterol level contributes to plaque buildup in the arteries, which can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. Choosing low-fat proteins, such as lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, egg whites and legumes such as beans, peas and lentils helps reduce your fat and cholesterol intake. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains all contain fiber and nutrients important to heart health. Am I telling you never to eat fast food? No, but I am telling you that if you consume a regular diet of these foods, your “engine” will not run as it’s meant to.
I promise I’m not just saying this to get people in my Zumba class….A healthy heart requires regular aerobic exercise. Really, ask any fitness professional, or heck, grab a doctor! Aerobic exercise challenges the circulatory system and increases blood flow to the muscles for an extended period.
Walking, along with hiking, jogging, bicycling and swimming are all great ways to improve your cardiovascular health. In addition to that, little things that you do every day can improve your cardiovascular fitness, for example taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
If you’re not comfortable with doing aerobic exercise alone, or get bored with walking, I recommend an Aerobics class- again, hence the name Aerobic. These classes are a great way to help you exercise your heart in a safe environment with a professional and most importantly, they’re fun!
Managing Weight
Did you know that even if you're only moderately overweight, you are at an increased risk for coronary hearty disease, particularly if you're between the ages of 30 and 64? Obese people are more likely to have high blood pressure as well as decreased HDL, the good cholesterol and elevated triglycerides, (cue menacing music) the "bad cholesterol." Adhering to a schedule that includes regular aerobic activity as well as a healthy diet will put you on the path to obtaining and maintaining a healthy weight.
Oh self sabotage. This one is probably the worst, because unlike your genetic predisposition or health history, you have control. You can make lifestyle choices that contribute to your overall health and the health of your heart or sadly, you can make choices that hurt it. I’m not going to go on a tangent here, but I think we all know what choices we make that help us and which ones hurt us. One of my favorite quotes:
Do something today that your future self will thank you for. I’ve modified it for this blog post to “Do something today that your HEART will LOVE you for.”
Next week, we’re switching back to nutrition and we’re talking all protein baby!
Until Next Time,
Yours in Health and Fitness

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