Have a Heart and Get a Healthy Heart

February 8, 2012

Celebrating February, National Heart Month

This is the month of hearts from Valentine’s Day to the President’s proclamation as America’s Heart Month.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has issued a February Toolkit outlining guidelines from the American Heart Association and other health information, which offers templates for emails, tweets and Facebook posts, to remind family and friends that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Retailers make the most of this first consumer holiday post-Christmas with some using it as an opportunity to link merchandise with charitable donations. Macy’s, for example, hosts “Wear Red Day” and donates 10% of sales of some brands to the American Heart Association.

As you focus on your own heart health and those of your loved ones this month, consider what else research shows about heart health.  Not only are exercise and the right foods essential, but so, too, is the companionship and camaraderie of family and friends.  Generosity plays a role in overall health, too.  M.J. Ryan in the book, Giving Heart, quotes recent research from Cornell University which found that “volunteering increases a person’s energy, sense of mastery over life, and self-esteem.”  These positive feelings create a chain of influences in the body’s chemistry including the release of endorphins, often called the human body’s natural tranquilizers and painkillers, stimulating dilation of blood vessels which has a positive impact on the heart.

The University of Michigan, Harvard University and dozens of other research teams validate the powerful impact to the immune system with acts of giving.  One study suggests positive physical effects can obtain even from watching acts of generosity!

So, this month eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, get off the couch, and find a cause you can support by giving your time and energy to make others’ lives better.  You can find detailed information on nearly 100 nonprofit organizations in Colorado at GivingFirst to get some ideas.  Many of these organizations have volunteer opportunities.

Consider learning more about the many ways to get involved and help keep your heart healthy here at Rebuilding Together Metro Denver.

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