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It’s simple, people…. get checked

I don’t usually write about many of my personal life episodes here.  Mostly because I feel privileged to have this forum, and most of what I try to put in here I hope is relevant, or at least relate-able.

This past week I had the best reminder I could get that this is National Heart Health Month.

I thought I was having the big one.

Fortunately, and blessedly, mine was not “the big one”, but I did undergo a battery of tests at Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital after my admission to the Emergency Room.

Before going further, a “shout-out” to Drs. Joe Tripp and Mircea Cristescu (Doc-C) and the ER staffers at Vidant R-CH for their exceptional professionalism in not just allaying my fear, but also in educating me about the one thing most of us ignore.

We’ve got to start taking better care of ourselves.

So consider this an advance Valentine’s Day message to keep that heart of yours bright red, and to keep us all here a very long time so our loved ones can love us just a little bit more.

Start by keeping close tabs on your diet. No one loves barbecue, fried chicken, Brunswick stews, and other culinary delights more than me, but I’m at the age now where I’ve got to keep tabs on the amount of  meat, eggs, and dairy I consume.  No, I’m not about to go anywhere near vegan – but God bless you if you have – but it’s time to get those other three main food groups on my breakfast and dinner table.

In honor of the heart’s amazing ability to function independent of us telling it what to do, here are some interesting facts about this important muscle from the American Heart Association I wanted to share:

Our heart beats one hundred one thousand times per day.

During our lifetime it will beat three hundred million times.

Each day we take twenty three thousand breaths.

Our blood travels sixty thousand miles per day throughout our body.

Our lungs inhale over two million liters of air daily.

So you see that the ol’ ticker does a lot of work! Don’t you want to take care of it the best way you can so it can keep beating as long as it can?

A few more stats to share: Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. About 600,000 people in the U.S. die from heart disease every year — that’s one in four deaths. It’s not just a man’s disease; 42.9 million women are currently living with some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD), and it is the #1 killer of women (not breast cancer). More than 2.6 million women have a history of heart attack; and 33.2 percent of women do not engage in leisure-time physical activity. It is also the #1 killer of men.

And just as importantly, don’t forget stress also plays a part in our health and impacts lives everywhere.  Sometimes stepping back and taking that deep breath, praying, counting to 10, all the other stress-relievers can do a lot to re-wire the old circuit and keep the power going strong.

Finally, exercise. Whether it’s walking the dog, like I do, or hitting the gym for anything from a session on the weights and the treadmill, or chasing those young fellows and girls up and down the courts (basketball to tennis), do something to get that heart rate cranked up.  Time to put down the potato chips and the cupcakes, lace up those sneakers, and get out there and breathe in some of God’s good air, one good gulp at a time.

So Happy Valentine’s Day, folks. Get that check-up, watch the diet, know the danger signs, and keep pumping.  Time to fall in love again with that sacred heart.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at gene.motley@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7211.