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Be sure to give the heart what it wants — and needs

Because the month of February is the month with Valentine’s Day and all the attendant love stuff, I guess it makes sense that February is “heart month.”

I remember mentioning this last year and would like again to spend some time talking about heart health awareness. We all know someone who has had a heart attack. We all know those who have died of heart issues. We may have even had heart attacks ourselves. It kind of goes along with being a senior citizen. Some of us have gotten this far without worrying about any heart problems — we’re the lucky ones. 

It just makes sense to start living heart-healthy lives even at this late date.

When my father was in his sixties and diagnosed with high blood pressure, he said up to this point in my life I didn’t even know I had a heart. My mother jokingly agreed that she didn’t think he had one either!

Historically the heart was the organ thought to be the center of the human being. Expressions like, “follow your heart,” “have a heart,” “don’t be heartless,” and “I love you with all my heart,” were used with the belief that the center of the person’s being was his or her heart.

We all know the songs that refer to the heart as the core of the person: “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” “Heart of Gold,” “Heart and Soul,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and the list goes on.

Shakespeare focused on the heart as the essence of the person: “ask your heart what it doth know,” “If you love me I’ll always be in your heart,” and so on.

Famous Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in a sailing accident. His friends and wife Mary made a pyre and burned his body on the beach. The story goes that Mary ran to the ashes and grabbed his heart before it was consumed. This heart is buried in a cemetery in Rome under a stone with the inscription “Cor Cordium” which means Heart of Hearts, so I have heard.

But we know so much more now. We know that the heart is a very important muscle necessary for proper circulation and breathing. But we also know that it is not the essence of the individual. People who have heart transplants do not become the person whose heart they have. 

However, we should all take good care of our hearts. And the experts agree that problems develop when the heart can’t pump enough blood to provide the body with the oxygen and nutrients it needs. And we know that to take proper care of our hearts, we have to exercise a great deal of common sense and good judgment, particularly in our daily habits. 

And these are pretty straightforward. Don’t smoke is an important rule to follow. Remember when everybody smoked and when people did not live as long as they do today. 

Also eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. They taste good and they are good for you. Don’t eat red meat for every meal.

Alternate with fish and some meatless meals. It’s better for you. 

And get plenty of fresh air, sunshine and exercise. Another bit of behavior that experts agree is not so great is worrying. We cannot control the future, so why worry about it, is a good rule to follow.