Is your heart happy?

How many times have you changed your car's oil within the past year?

How many times have you ran a mile?

If you are more vigilant about the fluids in your car than the blood flow in your body, it's time to make some changes!

February is Heart Disease Awareness Month. The CDC states: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day. These conditions are also leading causes of disability preventing people from working and enjoying family activities. Cardiovascular disease is also very expensive—together heart disease and stroke hospitalizations in 2010 cost the nation more than $444 billion in health care expenses and lost productivity.

While most of my middle schoolers aren't thinking about the social, moral and financial implications of heart disease, they are at the peak age for developing life-long personalities, attitudes and habits. In China, the bad habits like smoking start early....

Teenagers know what they should do to stay healthy, but they might not always do it 100% of the time. Although I do need to give credit where credit is due.

Our student population is in a unique position because many parents in our community are ambitious, career-driven individuals with overachieving personalities who do Ironmen competitions and marathons for fun. Our students have actually seen their parents run, exercise and eat healthy, no matter what country they're currently living in.

I believe it's easier for expat families to engage in healthy habits because it's a way to assimilate to a new culture. Families can take local cooking classes, make friends in new fitness classes/health centers, join biking clubs or golf to stay in shape and network.

They resist the couch potato mode because they don't have the comfortable familiarity of long-term friendships, family, comfort foods, routine of life (at least not right away).

You would think that more settled people would use the close connections, and proximity to their benefit; work out together, cook together, motivate one another. Amazingly, the opposite is generally true. In my own personal family, I have aunts and uncles who live within twenty minutes of my parents, and I have never seen them exercise together or talk about fitness/healthy living goals. Perhaps they are the exception, but given the statistics of heart disease and unhealthy living in America, they are probably part of the norm.

We can all add healthier habits to our days. Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, which improves memory and concentration. Get moving and you'll feel the difference!

Enjoy a cup of tea (or my poison, coffee) in the morning.

Invite a friend to take a fitness class with you.

Take a walk and talk with friends face to face after work.

Print out a calendar and write down how much physical activity you do everyday. It will hold you accountable!

Turn off the television/computers and leave the cell phones at home.

Go to a playground and swing and climb like a little kid.

Take a walk with your family around your neighborhood.

If you can't break away from the television, hold a plank position for the length of a commercial break.

Cook dinner with your family, and teach your children how to use healthy, fresh ingredients.

Make a fruit smoothie in the blender.

Don't eat in front of the television; eat at the dinner table and talk to your loved ones.

Invite someone over for dinner if you don't have people in the house to talk to.

Ride your bicycle in a park.

Request one for free on freecycle if you don't already have a bicycle.

Take mass transit and compliment someone to get a conversation going.

Think of nice memories.

Go to a quiet place and meditate.

Think of where you want to be in five years.

Go to a church/temple/synagogue and thank your respective higher being for your blessings.

Although technology is changing at lightning speed, our bodies still need the same emotional, social, physical, mental, spiritual, environmental nurturing it needed before. Do something for yourself and your body more often, because you get one heart to last a lifetime. After all, healthy bodies have happy hearts!

Middle School PE bulletin board, CISS, February 2012.
*~*Complete with happy, cute hearts, graphic hearts, and fun facts about the heart.*~*

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