I am your heart and this is my story. I haven’t been feeling as upbeat as I used to before, and you probably know that—but you seem to be ignoring my voice. So today I will help you to understand what I need from you. If you can follow the 10 simple ways I am listing below, you will keep me healthy and happy.
1. Please avoid extra salt and sugar at any cost—these interfere with my normal functioning. Let me explain...
When you consume extra salt, it increases water retention in the kidneys, and this in turn causes an increase in the amount of blood circulating in your body. This means that I have to work harder and it puts more stress on me. When I’m stressed, pressure increases—you have heard of this condition as high blood pressure.
Increased sugar levels cause the inner covering of the blood vessels to become sticky and more cholesterol and fat molecules stick to it. This narrows the blood vessels, making me work harder to do my job.
2. When Nature created me, it assumed that you would stay active, which would keep me strong and I could do all the essential tasks with minimal effort. But now, I have to put much more effort into making sure that all the other organs in the body—the brain, the kidneys, the liver—are working properly. A little regular exercise by you would go a long way in helping me stay fit and fine. When you exercise regularly, I get trained to work better under all conditions. In turn, I ensure that the rest of your organs work efficiently.
3. I would love to serve you for a long time but to enable me to do so, please avoid all things that are known to be harmful for me, smoking being the worst offender. When you smoke, the chemicals in cigarettes cause the blood pressure to rise and the heart to beat faster. I get tired in trying to cope.
Also, smoking damages the inner lining of blood vessels and the blood starts to clot. This can be dangerous, as even if one of the three main blood vessels that supply blood to me get blocked by a clot, I start to choke. This is commonly called a heart attack.
4. If you are overweight, I cannot function at my optimal levels. So maintain a healthy weight to keep it easy for me. These are the signs of my impending illness: your weight goes up steadily, your feet start swelling, or your breathing starts becoming heavy. Now that you have been forewarned, seek immediate advice from your doctor when you notice any of the above signs.
5. Your personal habits also affect my health. I hate cold water; please avoid bathing with it. Always use lukewarm water for bathing as cold water causes sudden stress to me, which is not advisable. Also, never take a brisk walk immediately after a meal. When you walk fast after eating, I get confused between supplying blood to the stomach to digest the food and supplying blood to the legs that need more energy. In this confusion, I can’t do justice to either and the regular blood supply suffers. Do I need to tell you how harmful this can be to you? If you must walk after meals, make sure it is a gentle, effortless stroll.
Before I forget, let me tell you that a good night’s sleep is vital for my wellbeing—it gives me the energy to work hard the next day. There is another secret I’d like to share with you— I love power naps, they give me time to replenish. So grab one whenever you can.
6. It’s often said that I’m like one of the seven wonders of the world. I’m the smallest motor in your system that works non-stop throughout your life. I utilise very little energy to function but the output I give is huge. I beat almost 80 times in a minute. I also work under extreme conditions and give 3 – 5 times the output even when you do exhaustive physical work. But all of this takes a beating when you’re sad, anxious or overwhelmed. So for my sake, try to keep yourself happy and always look at the brighter side of life.
7. You may not know this one, but I devour relaxing and rejuvenating therapies like meditation, yoga, chanting and massages. They relax the whole body and the calm they bring is is wonderful. So do me a favour and take up at least one of these regularly.
8. I work without troubling you all day and all night, whatever the season. But my requirements are not easy to understand.
Regular visits to a cardiologist are very important. A cardiologist is specially trained to take care of me. He understands my voice and my movements using devices like a stethoscope and blood pressure monitor, and can help you become more sensitive to my needs.
9. Knowing my importance to your life, you may want to learn more about me and arm yourself with accurate facts. There is an overload of information floating around that you might read with a lot of interest. But when it comes to reading about heart health, you can’t afford to be casual. Never follow advice from someone you met in the park. Rely only on credible sources based on scientific research. For instance, someone may advise you to use a particular ‘heart healthy’ oil. The reality is that you should keep changing your cooking oil so that I get the benefits of different sources like soya, sunflower, olive, mustard, canola and others.
10. Last but not the least I want you to remember the law of Newton: ‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.’ So whatsoever I am today is a reflection of the lifestyle you have adopted till date. Likewise, what I will be will depend on your present and future lifestyle. So adopt a positive attitude, eat healthy and get moving.
Finally, here’s a promise I make to you: if you take care of me, I’ll remain a loyal aide, serving you for your whole life.
This was first published in the April 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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