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Have a Heart: A Valentine to Your Vital Organ

Photo: The American Heart Association is reminding people to take steps to improve their heart health this Valentine's Day, including improving their diet and increasing exercise. Photo credit: AHA
Photo: The American Heart Association is reminding people to take steps to improve their heart health this Valentine's Day, including improving their diet and increasing exercise. Photo credit: AHA
February 12, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Hearts are everywhere this week as Americans prepare to celebrate a holiday that is projected to gross a record-setting $18.9 billion this Valentine's Day.

But medical experts want to remind folks it's the heart that should be top of mind. The American Heart Association says regular exercise and a healthy diet are gifts to the vital organ. Dr. Andrew Zurick, a cardiologist with the St. Thomas Health System in Nashville, says physical activity should be the norm, not an exception to how you go about your day.

"Ideally, I tell people they should be exercising every day," says Zurick. "It should just be sort of a habit, like brushing your teeth or putting your clothes on."

In addition, Dr. Zurick says to remove salt from your diet by reducing the amount of processed foods and eating out, and filling half your plate with vegetables at every meal. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in four deaths in Tennessee is related to heart disease.

The AHA also recommends making a date this Valentine's for your heart with your doctor, to check cholesterol levels and obtain a fasting blood glucose check.

"As long as it's working well, most people, I don't think, give a whole lot of thought about how to keep it working," he says. "But it's like the engine of your car if you don't change the oil regularly you're going to eventually run into problems with the engine working right."

The AHA also recommends you "rethink your drink." Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars, and excess sugar is linked to increased risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and inflammation in the body.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN