By Rhonda Zonoozi and Tracy Garrett
Ah, February: when our thoughts turn to showering our Valentines with tender loving care.
We don’t mean to play down Valentine’s Day and mushy, heartfelt love, but when was the last time you gave some TLC to that fist-sized, super pump in your chest?
Without our hearts — working in concert with our brains and bodies — we wouldn’t be able to feel love or put it into action.
The ever-loving human heart beats about 100,000 times daily, pumping 2,000 gallons of blood through the 60,000 miles of blood vessels that feed our organs and tissues. Any harm to the heart or its valves can disrupt that pumping power, forcing the heart to work overtime just to meet the body’s need for blood.
So how do we make sure our hearts are getting the TLC they need to keep pumping away? One excellent way is to embrace a program called TLC, short for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes. This proven lifestyle change program — developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute — teaches people how to lower their blood cholesterol and reduce their risks for heart disease.
TLC focuses on eating healthy, well-balanced meals, exercising regularly, losing weight and not smoking, all behaviors that address controllable risk factors for heart disease. These include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, drinking too much and smoking.
Here are a few of the TLC-recommended changes:
- Increase physical activity – Regular physical activity can help you manage your weight and correspondingly help lower your LDL. It also may lower your blood pressure.
- Eat healthier – Cutting back on foods high in saturated fats and trans fats (processed and fried food, red meat, high fat dairy), and replacing them with moderate amounts of healthier fats (nuts, seeds, olive oil) can lower your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raise your HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
- Quit smoking – Smoking tends to raise triglycerides and lower HDL. Quitting reverses those trends and significantly reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. Quitting can also improve blood pressure and lung function.
Show some love for your heart this February with a little TLC. A
For information about heart health classes at the Center for Health & Wellbeing, call 623-832-WELL (9355) or visit https://sunhealthwellbeing.org
Rhonda Zonoozi is an exercise physiologist and certified health coach. Tracy Garrett is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. Both work for the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing, putting their hearts into helping people improve their health.
(Originally published Feb. 28, 2015; last updated Jan. 12, 2019.)