[4 MIN READ]
In this article:
Learn why a popular saying is associated with heart function.
Explore ways to keep your heart in good shape.
A Providence cardiologist explains why you should take responsibility to keep your heart healthy.
If you're a parent, you've probably sent your child off to school or tucked her in with the sweet words, "I love you to the moon and back." This declaration of enduring love is popularly known from the children's book "Guess How Much I Love You." However, there is an alternate meaning that's been swirling around the internet that has a different take on the classic phrase.
This alternate meaning comes, appropriately enough, from the heart. It’s based on the popular (and debated) notion that every day, the heart creates enough energy to drive a truck 20 miles, which, over an average lifetime, is the equivalent to driving the distance — you guessed it — to the moon and back. Basically, this means your love for another person equals all the blood your heart will pump as long as you live.
Whether or not the calculation is accurate, the sentiment is sweet, right? Well, it helps if you keep your heart in good enough condition to live a long and healthy life. Here are some ways to keep that heart pumping for you--and for your loved ones.
Stand, don't sit. A sedentary lifestyle isn't good for your heart. In fact, it wasn't too long ago that a research study trumpeted that sitting is the new smoking in terms of its impact on your health. Sitting for too many hours a day, coupled with a lack of physical activity, indicated an increased risk of heart disease, as well as risk factors that can cause cardiovascular problems such as obesity and hypertension, according to the study. Whether it's getting a standing desk for your office or taking walk breaks during your lunch hour, work more movement into your day, every day.
Don't give yourself a heart attack. Because research suggests that around 90 percent of heart attacks could be prevented with the right lifestyle choices, it's important to know the risk factors. This is especially true if you have a family history of heart attacks or heart disease. Work with your doctor to see if you need a new diet, a smoking cessation program or medication to treat high blood pressure, among other factors.
Go skin deep to treat chronic pain. If you've got arthritis, the pain can be unbearable, which makes medication necessary. But instead of a basic painkiller in pill form, you may want to safeguard your heart and ask your doctor about the use of topical gels that are applied to the skin. A study in the Journal of the American Heart Foundation suggests that topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) pose lower risks for heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular problems compared to oral forms of the medications.
HIIT the gym. Obesity or excess belly fat can be a red flag for heart health problems. If you're struggling with this issue and your normal fitness routine isn't getting the job done, try High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT. This supercharged anaerobic workout, in which vigorous activity takes place in short bursts of time, can help with fat burning and heart health.
Keep an eye out for varicose veins. The bluish veins that pop up on the back of your legs may be a signal that you have increased risk for deep vein thrombosis. When this happens, a blood clot forms in one of those veins, and it can be dangerous if the clot breaks loose and travels up to the lung, where it can cause a pulmonary embolism.
Don't let congestive heart failure go untreated. When the heart can't pump blood adequately, it can result in a diagnosis of congestive heart failure. While this is a contributing factor in the death of one in nine Americans, it can often be treated, either with medications or with devices such as heart pumps or stents. It's important to work with your physician to come up with a plan to get you back to a normal life.
Get enough sleep. A good night's rest is powerful when it comes to the effect it has on your health. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain and the body's inability to regulate blood pressure, as well as increased risk of heart disease and stroke. If you are unsure about whether you are getting the rest your body needs, take this free sleep quiz.
Eat your way to heart health. You are what you eat, so if you want to be someone with a heart strong enough to pump for a long time to come, take a look at your diet and see if it's giving your body the nutrients it needs. When it comes to heart health, not all eating plans are created equal; if you need a nutritional makeover, look into the DASH, Mediterranean or vegan diets, which are good for you and your heart.
If you need to talk with a physician about your heart health, or you want to know more about how to manage the risk factor associated with cardiovascular disease, find a health care provider in our online directory.
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(Compiled and reviewed by the Regional Cardiac Education Committee, clinical staff and physicians in Providence Health & Services’ Portland Service Area)
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.