February is American Heart Month. So let’s raise awareness about heart health in an effort to prevent heart disease, which is the number 1 cause of death in the United States – and also to coincide with Valentine’s Day.
Before going into grim stuff, let’s check out some amazing heart facts:
- It is the first organ to form in an embryo and starts beating 22 days after conception
- Beats an average of 70 times per minute for about 100,000 times per day
- Sends 2,000 gallons of blood surging through your body traveling the 60,000 miles of blood vessels that feed your organs and tissues
- Only size of a fist and weighs between 8 – 10 ounces
Don’t Go Breaking My Heart
What causes this incredible muscular organ to break down and interrupt its life-maintaining function? Well, the leading risk factors all revolve around our behavior with food. That’s right, unhealthy eating habits.
Certainly, a person can be born with genetic dysfunction or a greater propensity for heart disease. But the vast majority of heart disease results from our dysfunctional relationship with food which lead to such consequences as weight gain and obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and high blood pressure.
Now, we think of Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to express gratitude to our significant other.
But what about expressing gratitude to your significant self? I believe that the greatest expression of self-love is the daily self-respect you show yourself through proper self-nourishment. Keeping yourself healthy first and foremost revolves around having a healthy and consistent relationship with food – and that, in turn, continues to provide the greatest gift you can give to others: a healthy you.
A Matter of Life and Death
Honoring the need to take care of your heart health first really is a matter of life and death – and here’s a true story that I share in my book which graphically illustrates this idea:
Sammy, a good friend of mine, has a buddy name Jack. Jack was a really overweight guy who suffered a massive heart attack. Following emergency bypass surgery, the doctor came into his room and said quite bluntly, “If you don’t want your wife to be a widow, and your children to be orphans, you must change your lifestyle right away.”
Well, Jack certainly got the point. For a few months, he really made great choices and prioritized his health.
But then, one evening, Sammy ran into Jack at the buffet table at a wedding reception. Jack was pounding away at the fried chicken wings, and sucking the meat and skin off the bones like a skilled artisan. Plate after plate kept on disappearing. Sammy just stood there in abject silence. Finally, he mustered up the fortitude to ask the obvious question.
“Jack, what are you doing?”
“These wings are great, Sammy, especially the BBQ sauce.”
Sammy asked again, “Jack, what are you doing?”
“These are delicious, man; the best wings I’ve had in a long time.”
Sammy asked again, this time, with a little more incredulous tone: “Jack, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
“What do you mean, ‘what am I doing?’ ” Jack responded as he licked the sauce from his fingers. “What does it look like? I’m eating wings.”
“No,” said Sammy. “You’re not eating chicken wings. You’re spitting in the face of your children by telling them that a chicken wing is more important to you than they are.”
And, with that, Sammy walked away from the chicken wings.
Choose to Live
It really is a matter of life and death. So for all your loved ones on Valentine’s Day – and for any day of the year – and most importantly for yourself – choose life and keep your amazing heart beating strong.