I look at a crowd of people and imagine all the skin, organs, arteries and every piece of the human body gone except for the heart.
And I see hearts everywhere pumping away for the sake of life, hanging in mid-air, oblivious to anything except keeping a perfect rhythm: thump, THUMP, thump, THUMP, thump, THUMP.
We forget the heart inside our bodies, encased within our ribs, taking us to work, to school, always at our beck and call. Then something scares us or a loved one enters our space and we suddenly feel it beating faster inside our chest.
Or after a fast run or hike up a steep mountain, the heart’s clean, strong, beats – pushing our breaths faster – tells us we are still very much alive.
The heart is a magnificent piece of machinery that begins three weeks after conception, beating more than 2.5 billion times in a lifetime, to be silenced only by death.
We owe much to our hearts, that relentless cardiac muscle that constantly fills our entire body with blood, pumping this liquid blue to the farthest tissue and back.
Those who smoke or have high cholesterol or diabetes are at risk of hurting the heart and have the greatest chance for a heart attack, the painful pressure and heaviness in the chest during activity.
But according to national data, since 2000 the number of incidents has thankfully been declining. We owe that to better treatments for initial heart attacks, better chronic therapy, better cholesterol drugs, and the overall treatments for congestive heart failure have simply improved over time.
Aspirin, it seems, is still good for the heart and part of a heart-health treatment.
Asked to clarify the pros and cons about taking one aspirin a day, Dr. Carter, Cardiologist at Hoag Hospital Newport Beach, commented that he feels it is obligatory for someone with clear cut coronary artery disease.
But what about taking an aspirin for preventative measures?
“Aspirin for preventative therapy starts with males in their 50s and women in their 60s who are smokers, diabetics, or have high cholesterol,” Dr. Carter states. And this is even without proven coronary heart disease or increased heart troubles. “Those that are at low risk such as a 40 year old woman who does not smoke, not diabetic and has good cholesterol levels is more likely to get a complication such as gastric bleeding from taking an aspirin. Talk to your doctor. Everybody is unique and your specifics may fine tune any advice.”
To keep the heart healthy, Dr. Carter recommends eating lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables. Avoid starches and animal fats. And get at least a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise three times a week; ideal is 45 minutes of moderately vigorous exercise daily. Asked what he does to keep himself fit?
“I run, swim, bicycle, hike and lift weights.” A balance of activities keeps the body fit and heart healthy.
On Valentine’s Day, hearts fluttered and briefly became the center of attention, which makes it the perfect month for Heart Awareness.
Hoag in turn is encouraging everyone to take part in one of their heart healthy activities, free community education classes and early detection screenings.
Celebrate your heart by visiting hoag.org/heart.