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FunTimes Magazine

For This Valentine’s Day and Beyond: Focus on Heart Health

Feb 13, 2022 02:00PM ● By Candice Stewart

We know that in the season leading up to and on Valentine’s Day, the focus tends to be on giving and receiving acts of love, where the emphasis is usually superficially placed on the heart. However, what about actually giving your heart some love? How about practicing the habits that encourage good heart health? Think about it. That’s much more important than the superficial, right?

Heart fact: February is also observed as Heart Month in many countries.

So, let’s briefly talk about the heart.

The heart plays a major role in the cardiovascular system. It is a network of blood vessels pumping blood throughout your entire body. It also works with other body systems to control your heart rate and blood pressure. According to The Cleveland Clinic, “your heart is like a house, it has walls, rooms, doors, plumbing, and an electrical system. All parts of your heart work together to keep the blood flowing and to send nutrients to your other organs.”

Heart fact: the heart is generally fist-sized. Something as small as a fist needs protection with all the work it’s designed to do, right?

What is cardiovascular disease?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are a group of disorders of the heart and blood vessels which include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions. The WHO reports that more than 4 out of 5 CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes while one-third of those deaths occur prematurely in people below the age of 70.

Heart fact: Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. They take an estimated 17.9 million lives per year.


Giving yourself a fighting chance

We should all know about maintaining general health by exercising, maintaining a balanced and healthy diet, and staying hydrated.

The WHO states that some behavioral risk factors of heart diseases include unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and harmful use of alcohol. These factors may lead to issues such as: increased blood pressure, increased blood glucose, being overweight, and obesity. Known as intermediate risk factors, they may be measured in primary healthcare facilities.

For her part, Board-Certified Family Medicine Physician, Dr Naima Stennet, shares a few tips for better general health and heart health that people may apply to their lives. 

"Developing a healthy lifestyle can start at any age and further prevent heart disease and lower the risk for a heart attack or stroke. You are never too old or too young to begin prioritizing your hearts health," she tells FunTimes Magazine. 

While you can't change some risk factors such as family history or age, there are ways to reduce the incidence of heart disease or cardiovascular diseases.

Health experts state the following:

-          Moderate alcohol drinking habits or completely stopping

o   We sometimes hear that moderate drinking accompanied by healthy dietary habits and regular exercise may prove to be healthy, such as lowering the risk of heart disease. However, as stated by the Cleveland Clinic, the American Heart Association cautions people against alcohol consumption for better health. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics along with the American Heart Association state that men should have no more than two drinks a day while women should have no more than one drink a day.

-          Managing stress with healthy strategies like meditation and journaling

o   We all have our vices. Some of us engage in unhealthy activities such as smoking and excessive drinking to cope with our stress. Instead, it is recommended that you write about your stressors on paper to release, hit the ground running with some physical activity, or you may also want to consider seeking therapy as a way to help manage your stress.

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-          Getting regular health screenings at your doctor

o   You may not have known this but high blood pressure and cholesterol can damage the heart and blood vessels, and unfortunately, you won’t know your status with them if you don’t visit your doctor and get regular checkups. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or even diabetes, your doctor may very well prescribe medications and recommend changes in your lifestyle. It is advised that you heed to the guidance given. Take your medication and follow a healthy and balanced lifestyle plan.

 -          Quit smoking or reduce the use of tobacco products and avoid secondhand smoke

o   As reported by the Cleveland Clinic, the American Heart Association states that “exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to about 34,000 premature heart disease deaths and 7,300 lung cancer deaths each year. Non-smokers who have high blood pressure or high cholesterol have an even greater risk of developing heart disease when they’re exposed to second-hand smoke.” This is due to the chemicals emitted from cigarette smoke that promotes plaque buildup on arteries.

-          Getting good quality sleep

o   The Cleveland Clinic states that sleep and a healthy heart go hand-in-hand. If you don’t sleep enough, you may be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease no matter your age, stage in life, or health habits. It is suggested that sleep becomes a priority. Get at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep every night.

-          Practicing good dental hygiene

o   Generally, good dental health is an indication of overall health which is inclusive of the heart. Additionally, the symptoms of gum disease are usually indicative of heart disease as well. So, taking care of those teeth and gums will aid in general health, or at the very least, monitoring of heart health. As reported by the Cleveland Clinic, though studies continue on the issue. However, “many have shown that bacteria in the mouth involved in the development of gum disease can move into the bloodstream and cause an elevation in C-reactive protein which is a marker for inflammation in the blood vessels. The changes may increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.”

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So, do yourself a favor, give your heart some attention this season of love. Be more delicate with your heart and do what needs to be done to give your cardiovascular system a fighting chance at optimal health and functionality.

Valuable Resources:

Get in touch with an organization near to you that focuses on heart health. Here are a few:

Association of Black Cardiologists

The Heart Foundation of Jamaica

Ghana Heart Foundation

Nigerian Heart Foundation

Article sources:

5 Things to Do Every day to Keep Your Heart Healthy – Cleveland Clinic

Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease – Mayo Clinic

The Heart – Cleveland Clinic

Cardiovascular diseases – World Health Organization (WHO)

 Candice Stewart is a Jamaican content writer specializing in human interest feature stories. She is a web content writer, blogger, and budding podcaster.

She holds an MA in Communication for Social and Behaviour Change and a BSc. in Psychology from the University of the West Indies (UWI, Mona).

Follow her blog at, where she shares stories and life lessons through real-life experiences.

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