February is for the Heart

February is all about the heart. It is American Heart Month. Also, Valentine’s Day, the holiday that celebrates love, comes in February. February 14th is Valentine’s Day, as most, maybe even all, readers know. In the spirit of celebrating the heart, I decided that my February blogs will be about relationships.

Our first relationship is with ourselves. How we feel about ourselves, our emotions, determines in large part our actions. If we have a healthy relationship with ourselves, it is easier to take good care of our heart. Taking good care of our heart includes making sure that we are heart-healthy. It includes eating healthy foods, foods that are good for our heart. It includes exercise, so that we stay physically active as long as possible. It includes having regular checkups, so we know if our cholesterol is out of control and if our blood pressure is in control, since both of these can be corrected with our behavior, and when that no longer works, with medicine. It also includes taking care of our emotional health.

What are healthy foods? You probably know this, even if you do not always eat healthy foods. Heart-healthy foods include foods that are low in fat, such as fish (especially salmon) vegetables (especially broccoli and Brussels sprouts,) fruit (especially blueberries) beans (especially garbanzo beans,) and olive oil (2 tablespoons/daily), and oatmeal (and other whole grains, such as quinoa.)

Exercise that is best for heart health is aerobic. Examples of exercise that is good for the heart are walking, jogging, bicycling, rowing, cross-country skiing, and swimming. Safety is a concern, especially in the winter, when ice that isn’t easily seen can accumulate. I personally do not enjoy exercise machines and gyms. I had a gym membership several times when I was younger, and after realizing that I do not like machines and gyms, I no longer even attempt to join a gym. Walking is my preferred exercise, and when it is too cold for me to walk outside, there is always the mall. Walking in the mall also breaks up the monotony of walking, since one can sightsee, and yes, even shop, if we are so inclined. When I am able to walk in my neighborhood, it takes less time and effort (and saves money!)

A discussion of heart health should include a focus on emotional health. Our almost two-year experience with COVID has resulted in some damage to the emotional health of many. We are, hopefully, on the other side of COVID, but not out of the woods completely yet. Dependent upon where one lives, and the restrictions on gathering and masks, our emotional health related to this, can vary considerably. I am basically very healthy and am vaccinated and boosted and have felt safe to go to restaurants and gather with friends and family since mid-2020. As such, I have not suffered the extreme loss of connection that those who have not been as active can feel. Even so, some of my friends have not felt as safe to gather, and I have missed being with them. Also, our world has changed dramatically, and some of those changes have adversely affected me and Mike. Life is not as easy as it was pre-COVID and may never be again. We do have a new normal, and those who can and do adjust to the new normal are better equipped emotionally than those who can’t and/or don’t. 

What are healthy emotions? Joy is the healthiest emotion, and yet joy escapees some people, in part due to the changes we have been experiencing. COVID is not the only change. Aging is another change, and since I recently became 70 years of age, I am dealing with this change. Another healthy emotion is happiness. Happiness is more external whereas joy is more internal. Positive experiences can cause happiness, yet joy can be felt just by feeling gratitude.

All healthy emotions are not positive. Sadness, disappointment, and grief, while more negative emotions, can be heart-healthy. What is most important regarding emotions is to express them in a healthy manner, to not suppress them. The value of talk therapy cannot be overrated, whether the talk therapy is with a supportive friend or a professional therapist. Sometimes the use of medicine is appropriate to treat conditions such as depression and should be coupled with talk therapy with a professional. This is my opinion and is not intended to be medical advice.

When we have a healthy relationship with ourselves, we are better able to have positive connections with others.  We are a relationship-oriented species, so connection with others is very important. So, it is time to look in the mirror and decide if we like what we see. Do we like ourselves? Do we value ourselves? Now, this does not have to mean that we like everything about ourselves, but that in general, we are happy with who we are. If so, we are better able to take action on being heart-healthy, such as healthy eating and exercising, so we can better take care of our most vital organ, our heart.

How is your heart?

About Patti Fralix

Patti Fralix inspires positive change in work, life, and family through Speaking, Consulting, and Coaching in three specialty areas: Leadership, Managing Differences, and Customer Service. Her leadership firm, The Fralix Group, Inc., has been helping clients achieve practical and tangible results for twenty-two years.
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