February: Month of the heart

Feb­ru­ary is not only the month where we get all lovey-dovey about each other (hi honey pie!), we can also use it as a month of remem­ber­ing to keep our phys­i­cal tick­ers going strong. How can you work on your healthy heart?

First of all, pre­ven­tion is key! Yeah, yeah, yeah, your grandpa died at 54 of a heart attack, but that was back in the stone ages, wasn’t it? They didn’t know all the great pre­ven­tion tips we know now, right? Not nec­es­sar­ily. Fam­ily his­tory is going to be the first thing to look at. Just as it’s pretty likely that two brown-haired peo­ple have a good chance of hav­ing a brown-haired baby (oh, those dom­i­nant genes!), if any kind of dis­ease runs in your fam­ily, make sure you’re aware of the risk fac­tors and get your­self checked out for them before they become a prob­lem. Make and keep your annual phys­i­cal appoint­ments. It only takes a few min­utes, and your doc­tor may very well catch some­thing going on in your body before it becomes a big deal.

Sec­ond is lifestyle. You know what you should and shouldn’t be eat­ing, so we’re not going to go into too much detail here. Those ooey-gooey Valentine’s day hearts of choco­late you buy for your­self and eat before 2/14 (we all do this, right?) are ok on occasion–depending on your doctor’s advice–but a diet of noth­ing but candy and soda, essentially eat­ing like your par­ents are out of town for the week­end, doesn’t cut it for health. Also you might want to get up once in a while and do some­thing phys­i­cal (with your doctor’s per­mis­sion). But we all know that, too.

Some­thing else you may not think about is pro­tect­ing your heart from emo­tional stress, too. Being stuck in a bad sit­u­a­tion can take a phys­i­cal toll on you, rais­ing your blood pres­sure and mak­ing you less able to heal from injuries and ill­nesses. (Nor­mal blood pres­sure is about 120/80.)

Did you know a panic attack can feel like a heart attack? For­tu­nately, here at IUC we have the abil­ity to per­form the proper tests to dis­tin­guish between a panic attack and a heart attack. So yes, we can help you if the stress becomes over­whelm­ing and you’re not sure what’s hap­pen­ing to your body. But again, the key is prevention.

Get­ting enough sleep helps greatly with stress. And it also makes you less sleepy, which means you drink less cof­fee, which then makes you less jit­tery. Caf­feine, no mat­ter how deli­cious, is not your friend in this sit­u­a­tion, as it can make you even more anxious.

Try to treat your­self a lit­tle nicer. This can help a lot, too. Take ten min­utes and go for a gen­tle stroll in the sun­shine to get some nat­ural light. Maybe turn off the TV with all its loud com­mer­cials and turn on some quiet music. Dust off an old hobby you haven’t had time to touch in a while. Half an hour spent knit­ting rather than wor­ry­ing can make a great deal of dif­fer­ence to your mood (and you get pretty socks out of it, too).

If you’re still strug­gling, it’s ok to admit when you need help. Turn to a trusted friend or your health care provider. Some­times all it takes it some­one else’s point of view to help you real­ize a way out of a bad sit­u­a­tion. Or your health care provider may have more per­son­al­ized sug­ges­tions for you. Turn­ing to some­one who’s there to help you is not shame­ful or show­ing weak­ness; we all need help from time to time. And being the one to say “I need help” can actu­ally show oth­ers how strong you are.

Ques­tions? Com­ments? We’d love to hear from you.