Take care of your heart, and your heart will take care of you.  A piece by Bill Gifford in Men’s Health discusses How Your Heart Can Break.  As the 17th-century British physician William Harvey noted, “Every affection of the mind that is attended with either pain or pleasure, hope or fear, is the cause of an agitation whose influence extends to the heart.”

Your Heart is a Very Sensitive Organ

Your heart beats roughly 70 times a minute, 100,800 times a day, and 36,792,000 times a year.  That’s a lot of work.  Your habits, diet, emotional state, stress levels, and even your environment impact your heart.  “Most men are familiar with classic risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol, but they tend to miss the mental, emotional, and even spiritual issues that relate to the heart,” says Dr. Mimi Guarneri.

Mr. Gifford’s piece does a great job of creating awareness about how the heart works.  The print version of the article takes it one step further.  It highlights the importance of watching your health.  For instance, diabetes is considered early-stage heart disease because chronically high blood sugar spurs inflammation that can weaken the heart.  For men, there are early warning signs of a future heart attack or stroke, like erectile dysfunction, which can be caused by atherosclerosis buildup in the small vessels leading to the penis.

Although heart disease may often be thought of as a problem for men, heart disease is the most common cause of death for both women and men in the United States.  Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Pain in one or both arms.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Sweating.
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness.
  • Unusual fatigue.

These symptoms can be more subtle than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks.

Key Takeaways

Your heart is like its own city-state.  It has its own electrical system.  It has its own circulatory system.  It is concerned about the environment, including noise and pollution.  It is influenced by the quality of blood coming in.  It is influenced by the quality of oxygen being exchanged in the lungs.  It responds to neurochemicals.  It self-regulates.

Although the heart is very resilient, it cannot survive too much abuse.  It will give up on you if you give up on it.  Becoming aware of symptoms and risks can help protect you.  Making several lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease are recommended:

  • Quit or don’t start smoking
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and lean meats.  Avoid saturated or trans fat, added sugars, and high amounts of salt.

Be proactive.  These lifestyle changes should be supported by your doctors.  You doctors can help you control your risk factors.  Your doctors should also be aware of the early warning signs of heart disease and alert you when they develop.  Therefore, make sure your doctors keep tabs on your heart and your health.  If they don’t, then contact us.