By: Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke Prevention Program; Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, Division of Public Health

During the month of February there is a constant theme of gratitude for the people we love.  But how we can pay gratitude to our heart?

The heart is essential to life. It cannot be heard unless one listens, but it always gently beats to remind you it is there. The heart works every day to pump blood throughout the body; from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. Blood contains oxygen and vital nutrients and carries carbon dioxide and waste to be recycled and eliminated.

We have heard it all before: Eat your vegetables. Consume heart-healthy proteins such as fish, legumes, or lean poultry. Eat fewer foods containing high amounts of sugar, sodium, and saturated fat. Exercise regularly.  Reduce stress.

We all know those things are easier said than done. So, what is the magic trick? Tell me something I haven’t heard before that would make those things easier to do.

Health professionals say it’s important to pair heart health recommendations with behavior changes.

The heart beats and takes care of us every day, but it is easy to forget about. Unfortunately, we don’t always worry about our lifestyle choices until they result in medical issues. Educating yourself can help prompt questions regarding your heart. Why should I care about eating a heart-healthy diet? Why do I need to exercise? What does the heart even do?

Learning about the heart is no easy task. After all, it is a complex organ involved in an entire circulatory system!

The American Heart Association is a great place to begin exploring that pumping powerhouse in your chest. The organization’s website has a “Health Topics” tab that contains information on the different illnesses involving the heart. You can learn about the risks in the privacy of your home. Knowing the risks beforehand might help you be more motivated to prevent heart disease. This website also contains great ideas for reducing stress, remaining active, and promoting health.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has free evidenced-based nutrition information to create heart nourishing eating patterns. It equips you with the tools needed to build your own nutrient-packed grocery lists as well as the confidence you might get by reading information from a trusted resource. Simply type in “Heart” in the search box and, voilà, multiple articles for hearty indulgence.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services lists daily activities and recommendations to get the heart pumping like a well-oiled machine.

So as you’re writing your Valentine’s for your loved ones this Feb. 14, take a few minutes to consider your heart and the healthy steps you might take to show it some gratitude on the holiday of hearts.

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