As spring approaches, I am often reminded that it’s a time of renewal when reflection is at its peak. I reminisce about the body and state of health I had 20 years ago, and wish for those days when eating right and exercising was a fleeting thought which could be cast to the wind. These days, the reality that my body will only be as good to me as I am to it is my reality, especially when it comes to my heart health. Recently I had the privilege of undergoing major surgery. I was diligent in doing my research prior to the event, and even though I knew there could be complications, I felt fairly confident that I was in good shape going into surgery. I had considered getting more cardio in to make sure that my heart was conditioned as best as possible; however, days of procrastinating turned in to three weeks and before I knew it I was face to face with my impending surgery date.
Springing ahead to post-op I felt okay, not great, but that’s the reality of surgery and needing downtime to heal. It wasn’t until I began getting back into my routine of carrying out little functions, such as showering, that I realized I probably should have taken the extra cardio to heart, literally. My mind and body were willing, but my heart was definitely not able. I had not factored heart rehabilitation into the equation of recovery. On some level, I was aware of the term use it or lose it, but the idea that I had to recondition my heart to function as it once did was daunting. Although I am on the mend, I learned a valuable lesson: Don’t take your heart for granted. Make heart health a priority by springing into action. Adding or incorporating a few changes into your daily routine could make all the difference between watching life go by or being an active participant in it.
Here are some key dos and don’ts to help guide your journey to heart health.
• Do move more. Studies suggest that getting 30 minutes of cardio most days can improve your heart conditioning and overall health in general.
• Do get yearly heart check ups. Knowing your risk factors and how they relate to your current health is vital.
• Do incorporate more fruits, vegetables, fiber, and whole grains into your diet and limit animal fat and refined sugar.
• Do manage hypertension and follow your doctor’s orders concerning medication management.
• Do familiarize yourself with the latest heart technology and test for early detection of heart disease in order to have an informed conversation with your doctor.
• Don’t take your heart health for granted.
• Don’t smoke or take in secondhand smoke.
• Don’t frequently overindulge in excessive eating—it puts extra stress on the heart.
• Don’t allow yourself to stress about things you cannot control.
For more information on heart health, check out these sites:
Live long, healthy, and strong. Here’s to your heart!
Aline Hanrahan is a Licensed Professional Counselor practicing in St. Charles and St. Louis counties. She specializes in individual, child, family, and marriage counseling and has serviced the mental health and public school systems for 20 years. For more info, visit alinehanrahan.com.