Is your heart healthy for Valentine’s Day?

It is the day of hearts once more, which is another opportunity to discover the state of health of our one and only heart. Let us love our heart and give it the best of what is necessary to ensure its health and well-being.
So, here is an advisory for a healthy heart every Valentine’s Day.
Are you exercising regularly? Brisk walking for 20 to 30 minutes, three to four times a week, is one of the best exercises for the heart. This activity incurs no expense except for the initial buying of a sturdy but comfortable pair of shoes for walking. Biking and swimming are also excellent exercises for the heart, although less convenient than walking. Make time to do some daily exercise. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Do some stretching of the joints and muscles after waking up and before sleeping. Clean the house, especially if this is not a daily chore that you do. Find a friend who will enjoy joining you in your exercise program. Making exercise a happy social activity provides additional benefits to the heart.
Are you eating properly? Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day without fail. Cut back on and minimize your consumption of beef and pork. For animal protein, eat fish and organic chicken instead. However, before eating poultry remove the skin, which contains plenty of cholesterol. Dishes are healthier if they are boiled, broiled, baked, grilled or poached instead of fried. Also cut back on cheese, ice cream, cakes, pastries, mayonnaise, crab fat, prawns and shrimps. Regulate your salt and sugar intake as well.
Have you resolved your inner hurt? It is essential to have inner peace in our heart, mind and spirit. Confronting unresolved guilt and hurt is the first step to the genuine well-being of your heart. So forgive, make peace, and give yourself time to make resolutions and agreements. On the other hand, if you are the party at fault, ask for forgiveness. Pay your debts, whether financial or emotional. Renegotiate debt payments if required.
Do you have a positive outlook on life? A positive view of yourself, your immediate environment and the world is always helpful in maintaining a healthy heart. Keep on smiling. After waking up in the morning, say that the day will be great and nice to you. Give thanks for the fact that you are alive for another day of work, service and fun. Make your life simple. Organize your daily schedule at home and at work. Find regular time for your family and friends. Socialize and make time for leisure during the week. Create or discover events that will give you joy, laughter and satisfaction. Have a neat and happy face and body. Wear comfortable clothing. Get enough sleep and rest. Allocate 30 minutes a day to formulate solutions to your problems. Relax, meditate and pray.
Are you ready to give up smoking and decrease your intake of alcohol and caffeine? Tobacco and nicotine damage both your lungs and your heart. Smoking is one habit that should be given up soonest. Avoid secondary smoke from cigars and cigarettes. Drink alcohol moderately. Should you drink, choose red wine or beer but limit to 120 ml a day. Regarding coffee, caffeine increases your heart rate, so limit to two to three cups of coffee a day. Better yet, drink tea. You can have five to six cups of tea daily. Otherwise, drink herbal teas, especially the original Filipino tea, ginger tea. Also, minimize your intake of sodas that contain caffeine.
Did you have your heart and blood pressure checked? Do this at least yearly, no matter what age you are. Visit your nearest health center or clinic to find out the latest status of your heart and blood pressure. Your pulse and heart rate should be below 99 and your blood pressure not above 140 over 90. If you have extra money, have a cholesterol and lipid profile of your blood done. Sleep is essential for a healthy heart. Avoid a deliberate lack of sleep. Eight hours of sleep in total darkness is medicine for the heart.
Remember, you have only one precious heart. Give it tender and loving care every day. May your heart be hale, healthy and happy on Valentine’s Day.

By Jaime Z. Galvez Tan, MD MPH

The author is chairman and founder of Health Futures Foundation, Inc., a civil society organization working to create communities of wellness in marginalized communities nationwide.