How to Help Your Heart Stay Healthy ~ Part 1

Red stop light and man proceeding across Lake Shore Drive in a blizzard.

“Warning! Stop! Proceed with Caution!” by © Terry Tasche

“A memory is a photograph taken by the heart to make a special moment last forever.”   Unknown author

Maybe memories can be made to last forever, but, is there help for the heart to last forever, or at least help it stay healthy for your lifetime? To be or not to be, that is the question for the heart. Although heart disease is said to be the leading cause of death, can its onset be delayed, or better yet, prevented?

The heart is busy supplying blood to the body 24/7. If it stops, you will stop, too, perhaps forever. Awake or asleep, it keeps on beating. It can’t stop or even take a break, or the body stops, dead in its tracks.

The heart needs strength and endurance in order to keep on pumping. Give the heart what it needs, nutrition and exercise, so that it can live and beat 24/7, for a lifetime.

Here are a few interesting facts on this vital organ*:

  • The human body has about 5.6 liters (6 quarts) of blood, which circulate through the body three times every minute.
  • In one day, the blood travels a total of 12,000 miles–that’s four times the distance across the US from coast to coast.
  • The heart muscle beats about 100,000 times in one day, 35 million times in a year, and more than 2.5 billion times during an average lifetime.
  • The heart pumps about 1 million barrels of blood during an average lifetime–that’s enough to fill more than 3 super tankers.

As the facts show, the heart is destined to a lifetime of “hard labor,” pumping, pumping day in and day out, with no days off and no vacations. How can we help it stay healthy? How can the risk of heart disease be stopped before heart disease stops the heart? If the heart stops, as in a “cardiac arrest,” perhaps brought on by a heart attack, it can lead to the need for CPR, or “cardio-pulmonary resuscitation,” in order to save that life. Preventing the need for drastic measures, like life-saving CPR, is the goal. The bad news is that the heart can stop.

What you need to know: 1) Just like other muscles, the heart can become stronger with exercise. 2) The good news is that there are ways to signal the coming day of doom so you can take action to change and hopefully stop some of the causes of heart disease.

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) published several studies showing that the blood indicators of inflammation are strong predictive factors for determining who will suffer a heart attack.

The NEJM states, “C-reactive protein (CRP) is a critical inflammatory marker that indicates an increased risk for destabilized atherosclerotic plaque and abnormal arterial clotting. The arterial plaque can burst open and block the flow of blood through a coronary artery, resulting in an acute heart attack.

One of the NEJM studies done by Ridker et al. showed that people with high levels of C-reactive protein were almost three times as likely to die from a heart attack.” C-reactive protein levels also reflects other inflammatory conditions, keep reading.

Although high CRP levels are apparently not the cause of heart disease, research shows that elevated levels indicate an increase in heart attack and stroke risk. January 28, 2003, the American Heart Association and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) jointly endorsed the C-reactive protein test to screen for coronary-artery inflammation to identify those at risk for heart attack.

The normal metabolic and oxidation processes can create molecules called free radicals, which can cause inflammation and damage cells. So, one solution to the free-radical/inflammatory problem is to reduce the damage that leads to heart disease and to slow down and counteract the oxidation process with antioxidants.

A growing consensus among scientists is that common disorders such as atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), colon cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease are all caused in part by a chronic inflammatory syndrome.

Studies also suggest that higher levels of hs-CRP may increase the risk that an artery will reclose after it’s been opened by balloon angioplasty.

Inflammation and free-radical damage are not diseases, however, they are also implicated in many cancers, heart disease, strokes, MS, Parkinson’s, premature aging, and almost any debilitating, degenerative condition you can name.

Some causes of free-radical formation and inflammation are:

  • Processed foods – like Refined Flour, Refined Sugar products
  • Lack of exercise – but, on the positive side, muscle contractions during exercise release molecules that contribute to anti-inflammatory actions**
  • Air pollutants
  • Industrial chemicals
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Drugs – recreational and prescription
  • Daily stress – emotional and physical
  • Radiation – which includes UV rays from the sun
  • Trans-fatty acids
  • Too much sugar consumption
  • Smoking cigarettes
    • The periodic report by the United States Surgeon General states, “Cigarette smoke contains free radicals, and smoking is, at least in part, responsible for some life-threatening diseases like heart and blood vessel disease, emphysema, and cancer,” all of which can kill you. It sounds like smoking may be one effective way to “main-line” free radicals right into the body. That is bad news, but the good news is that you don’t have to smoke. And, if you do, you can quit.
"Please put out that cigarette!" is a photo of a little boy pouring water from a bottle over a man's cigarette.

“Please put out that cigarette!”

How many of these possible causes are under your control? Probably more than many of us would like to admit. Remember to try to avoid as many of these six S’s as possible: Sugar, Salt, Sun, Smoke, Stress, and Sitting (or Sedentary lifestyle) to help your heart stay healthy.

The image seen at the top of the article, “Warning! Stop! Proceed with Caution!” was taken at Chicago’s lakefront at Fullerton Avenue at the start of the infamous Blizzard of February 1, 2011.

http://www.pbs.org/

** http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22390642

Copyright © Terry Tasche – All Rights Reserved

2 Responses to How to Help Your Heart Stay Healthy ~ Part 1

  1. Emily January 20, 2015 at 12:54 am #

    Wow! How does the heart do it? It seems like it’s the hardest working organ in the body. Stress and processed foods are doing me in but hard to give either of them up. Stress can act like a motivator but the anxiety is a depressant and I’m in the dumps now. Cooking would really depress me so eating Lean Cusines is a compromise and better than cooking and eating. Which would stress my heart with the extra weight I’d put on. At least don’t have a problem with remaining list items. 🙂

    • Terry Tasche January 21, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

      Yes, the heart never seems to get a rest, except during the short time between beats.
      The heart is contracting and relaxing several times every minute. When the heart beats, it contracts, pushing blood through the arteries to the rest of the body.
      The systolic reading, or top number, of the blood pressure (BP) records the contraction of the heart, which creates pressure on the arteries.
      The diastolic, or bottom number, indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.
      A normal blood pressure reading (systolic/diastolic) should be under 120/80.
      A systolic/diastolic blood pressure between 120-139/80-89 indicates prehypertension.

      Other involuntary organs like the kidneys, lungs, liver, spleen, stomach, etc., are plenty busy, too. They just keep doing their thing, but we’re usually not too aware of them.

      It’s the ones we have control over, like arm, leg, and abdominal muscles that we often let remain in a sedentary mode. They need some exercise in order to keep the whole body and all of the organs in the body healthy and happy for a lifetime of healthy living.
      Terry Tasche recently posted…CRP to Prevent CPR ~ Part 1My Profile

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