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Vince Mercuri: Care for physical, emotional heart

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Silhouette of hands making heart at sunset

I recall sitting in a health/science class in the early ’70s where the subject was caring for the heart. Topics included the typical instructions about height and weight , exercise, diet, heart-rate monitoring, blood pressure ranges, and overall health and wellness do’s and don’ts. The homework assignments involved tracking daily routines of intake (food) and output (exercise) so the concrete measures could be discussed, evaluated and altered to provide a blueprint for a healthier heart. The theme was that the foundation of physical health is attention to the care of the heart.

I applaud the teacher’s focus and concern nearly 50 years ago. Statistics from the American Heart Association in 2018 reveal that heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in the United States. Coronary heart disease accounts for one in seven deaths in the United States. Approximately every 40 seconds an American will have a heart attack.

In light of these numbers, our physical health must continue to be a priority in our preventative care strategies.

In addition, we must be vigilant about caring for our emotional hearts. While there are concrete ways to strengthen the physical heart, the condition of the emotional heart is more abstract and difficult to measure. The emotional heart — including stress and moods — needs to be managed and monitored on a daily basis.

We must be aware of what we take into our hearts, especially what we absorb from media, books, music, visual images, conversations, etc. This intake is food for our emotional heart to digest, with output of energy, both positive and negative, and emotion, reflected in our words to others.

It is helpful to become more attuned to our emotions and the impact of positive and negative individuals on our lives. Our relationships have a direct link to our state of mind. Cultivate positive relationships built on mutual trust, empathy, support, openness and honesty. These types of relationships, while not perfect, can be a foundation to build emotional strength and resilience while learning more adaptable responses to daily stresses.

The medicine of gratitude also can help keep our emotional hearts healthy. Take time to reflect on what you’re grateful for — health, home, family, employment, relationships . A grateful heart is a happy heart.

Establishing priorities and not compromising our values and beliefs is paramount to guarding our emotional hearts. Once we start to make little compromises, a slow, steady toxicity takes hold. We need to be diligent and wise about what we allow into our hearts, for out of our hearts will flow the true nature of our overall well-being.

Vince Mercuri, executive director of the Open Door Alcohol/Drug Treatment Center and Crisis Intervention Program in Indiana, Pa., is a member of the Valley News Dispatch Editorial Board.