Next Tuesday is the annual holiday for our hearts. I remember first being introduced to Valentine’s Day in elementary school … those class card exchanges where we put our names on a paper bag and then walked around the classroom distributing cards and candy. It was fun, perhaps a little anxiety producing - wondering if my bag would fill up. My mom had a rule - if I gave a valentine to one person, then I had to everyone. It was a good mom lesson – it’s easy to make everyone feel included.
These days I think about the annual heart holiday a little differently – it’s my actual heart I’m focused on. The daily ticking that we take for granted but shouldn’t. Good heart health doesn’t just happen – you must give it some attention. There’s an excellent website on our hearts as we age by the National Institute on Aging. It covers signs of heart disease and some prevention tips.
Symptoms can be hard to spot, especially in early stages. That's why regular checkups with your doctor are important. And here’s something many don’t realize: the signs of heart attack are different for men and women.
Contact your doctor right away if you feel any chest pain, pressure, or discomfort. However, chest pain is a less common sign of heart disease as it progresses, so be aware of other symptoms. Tell your doctor if you have:
Pain, numbness, and/or tingling in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back
Shortness of breath when active, at rest, or while lying flat
Chest pain during physical activity that gets better when you rest
Tiredness or fatigue
Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach, and/or neck
Reduced ability to exercise or be physically active
Problems doing your normal activities
The best prevention tip: get plenty of exercise. Your heart is a muscle, and just like any muscle is appreciates being regularly used! A good way to keep your heart muscle active is to join one of the two Village walking groups. We offer one on Saturday morning at the Cathedral Commons Giant and if you live in Woodley, another group sets out on Thursdays from the Chipotle in Woodley Park. Additionally, we have three virtual wellness classes: Monday at 10 there’s yoga and on Wednesday and Friday at 10 we have a half-our stretching class.
All are a great way to get moving and stay healthy and a great treat for your heart on Valentine’s Day - or any day.
Frank Finamore is Executive Director of the Village