By Interactive Metronome - January 22, 2014
A Heart to Heart About Your Heart
The heart: some muscle tissue, four chambers, nerves, connective tissue, veins and arteries coming and going, respectively. To look at one, it is a rather unimpressive organ, but it will produce more power than any other muscle during your lifetime. In fact, across the average lifetime, the heart makes enough energy to drive a truck to the moon and back – eat your heart out other organs! With such an amazing organ, it is no wonder why there are so many expressions related to the heart. Sadly, I can’t remember any right now; however, there is no need to be heavy hearted, we shall press forward regardless.
February is National Heart Month, which makes it a great time to talk about your brain. Confused? Well, maybe you need to take better care of your heart. Boston University School of Medicine research suggests that a healthy heart plays an important part in brain function, brain shrinkage and cognitive deficits. If that just feels like another thing to worry about, don’t fret! Interactive Metronome® (IM) is here to help…and it comes from the bottom of our hearts. We want the best for our clients and you can’t reach your full potential without a healthy, happy heart. IM is dedicated to helping people regain mobility, overcome deficits and live longer, fuller lives. To do that, you need a heart; no ‘ifs’, ‘ands’, or ‘buts’ about it. Synchronizing the brain and body only works if they are both in tip-top shape, and it turns out that they rely a lot on one another (more on that later). Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter.
There are a lot of numbers out there about heart disease, and you may not know them by heart; so, here is a brief recap. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in America, responsible for nearly one out of every four deaths. Every 34 seconds someone in America has a heart attack, and over 800,000 die every year from some form of cardiovascular disease. Shocking statistics, truly not for the faint of heart. You may be asking, “Why so much heart disease?” The answer, cross my heart and hope to die, is an increasingly sedentary lifestyle coupled with unhealthy processed food and higher reported levels of daily stress.
Seems pretty straightforward, and it seems like all of those variables could be changed…so, why do the number of cardiovascular disease related deaths continues to rise? Unfortunately, humans are a notoriously stubborn bunch, and the heart wants what the heart wants. Regular exercise takes a lot of motivation and eating healthy is expensive, especially in a family with growing children. Not to mention the stress; work, crazy neighbors, lack of sleep, worrying about not making it to the gym and trying to keep your family healthy all put added stress on the heart. But take heart; here are a few easy tips to keep your heart and brain (more on that later) healthy – ahh, a man after my own heart.
· Diet – Everything doesn’t have to be hard, or expensive. Eating out this weekend? Switch your baked potato with extra butter and sour cream for a salad (and hold back on the dressing!). Make your daiquiris with real strawberries. Pack apple slices instead of chips in your child’s lunch. Replace fatty beef and pork dishes with fish and lean chicken. Being healthy can be as simple as remembering to go fresh over canned. So, plan your meals for the week, put fruit and vegetables in each serving, cut out excess fat, and your heart will thank you. Plus, planning ahead and not wasting fresh bulk produce is an easy way to save money. That sounds like a lot of green. Bonus – The low fat, high vegetable you might even lose a pound or two.
· Exercise – Ugh, the dreaded “e” word. While squeezing in 30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week sounds difficult, there are easy ways to get active. Work on the 4th floor? Great, take the stairs every day. You could even stop worrying about finding the closest space and enjoy the short walks to your office (assuming the weather is nice). I bet your dog would love a few extra walks and some more playtime also. Even if you feel like you are only half-heartedly making an effort, you are making an effort. Good habits take time to develop and the new you will thank you for any extra physical activity. Pretty soon, you will feel young at heart again. Bonus – Taking the activity social by engaging your family and friends will help keep everyone up off the couch, active and healthy.
· Snack Attack– It isn’t just what you eat, but it can also be important when you eat. Eating small, healthy snacks throughout the day will help regulate blood sugar, heartbeat and metabolism. Heart healthy snacks like almonds, yogurt, flax, dark berries and citrus fruits are both low in fat and great for your heart. Eating small snacks will also help curb hunger and keep you from overeating at regular meals. Bonus – You actually get to eat more and lose weight!
· Salt! Salt! Salt! – It is in everything, even cookies! Cookies?! Yes, cookies; salt just makes everything taste like…well, hmmm…better. It isn’t the best thing to say in a health article, but salt makes everything taste good. And people literally seem to take everything with a grain of salt. It’s in your bones. It regulates water content in the body. Salt has been used as currency. It is used to clean aviation fuel. It preserves food. It de-ices roads. And it will kill you. Taking in more than 2,300 mg of salt daily is harmful to your health, less if you have some pre-existing conditions. So be careful when you eat on the run; a Big Mac® from McDonald’s has a whopping 1000 mg of salt. Finish that combo with a large fries (350 mg) and a Mountain Dew® (>100 mg) and you are well over halfway to the day’s total. Factor in that egg and cheese Croissan’wich® (730 mg) and dinner is going to be pretty bland if you want to stay under the recommended daily allowance of sodium. Bonus – Constantly adding salt to food will cause your taste buds to develop a tolerance. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and eating less salt will actually make the salt you eat taste saltier.
So, what does this all have to do with your brain? Simple. Your brain needs blood. Your heart pumps blood. Remember that Boston University School of Medicine from earlier? Turns out, people whose hearts pumped less blood had smaller brains. Additionally, the reduced blood flow from cardiac problems actually led to more rapid brain aging and shrinkage, which leads to dementia, Alzheimer’s and cognitive deficits. In fact, out of the 1,500 people studied, the brains of those with low cardiac output aged by an additional two years.
Two years? Sorry to break your heart, but that extra birthday cake might be making you dumber (and it isn’t even an ice cream cake, great…said with much sarcasm). Geez, that is a double whammy – high cholesterol and low IQ. That might make you have a change of heart about how you care for your brain. While it may sound like just another thing to worry about, taking a few steps to be physically healthier is actually killing two birds with one stone. Be smart about caring for your body and your body will reward you with more brainpower. Now, Elizabeth will have to wait a little longer for you to join her because you are going to be avoiding the “big one.”
Want more information on nutrition? Check out some of our other blogs…