People often ask me why I chose the field of cardiology, and I always answer that to me the heart is fascinating. Coupled with the incredible complexity of its structure and abilities is the pure simplicity of the silent way it supports us every day. Beat after beat it works tirelessly to sustain us from the womb to our very last breath. It gives us so much and it asks only one thing of us in return: love. However too few of us truly love our hearts. We take for granted that it will serve us dutifully and we don't give it the kindness, care and adoration it deserves. But as with every great love in life it must be nourished, understood and shown compassion. We must work to make the relationship long lasting and that means taking the time and energy to devote to the simple steps of prevention. By focusing on prevention, we are laying a solid foundation for our relationship with our heart that will help us steer clear of future problems.
I truly believe the same keys to a wonderful personal relationship also make for the best ways to support a heart healthy relationship. Here are 9 steps that I believe make for a great start!
Empowerment: love yourself enough to want to take care of your heart.
Communicate effectively: get to know your heart by learning your risk and your family history.
Create date nights: treat your heart to fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish and a glass of red wine.
Share fun activities: get your heart pumping with activities to build endurance, foster bonding and teamwork.
Be vulnerable: listen to your heart and make seeking medical care for symptoms a priority.
Show commitment: prioritize your heart by monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and blood sugar.
Protect: keep your heart safe by taking prescribed medications and avoiding tobacco.
Radiate positivity: train your mind to speak kindly to your heart, de-stress and express gratitude.
Demonstrate trust: believe in your heart's devotion to you.
Focusing on these small investments every day can help keep the bond with your heart strong.
I have always been dedicated to healing through teaching my patients to understand the power they have to control their future. Through their everyday choices they can paint the picture of what their future cardiovascular health will look like. It's never too late I explain to them. Now that I am also a mother I am immensely aware that it is also never too early. Each day I marvel at the miracle of my 2.5 year old, and I hope to instill in her the value of respecting her heart as one of the most important relationships she will have. I know the earlier she incorporates heart healthy behaviors into her life the easier it will be to continue them down the road.
I will also be sure to show her one of my favorite movies, "The Princess Bride" where it is said: "true love is the greatest thing in the world." In honor of February I propose that we all fall in LOVE again with our beautiful and sacred hearts.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the American Heart Association's Go Red For Women in recognition of National Wear Red Day (Feb. 6, 2015), the aim of which is to raise awareness that today women are more likely than men have heart disease or a stroke, and 1 in 3 will die. But 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. To read all the stories in the series, visit here. And to follow the conversation on Twitter -- and share a picture of yourself wearing red -- find the hashtag #GoRedSelfie.