Guard Your Heart


“Let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18).

My younger brother, a powerful man who displayed no outward evidence of physical infirmity, recently experienced sudden cardiac arrest. Divine intervention, along with cardiopulmonary resuscitation administered by his wife and quick response by an emergency medical team, enabled my brother to survive what could have been a fatal heart attack. A stent was placed in an artery, which had been nearly blocked, and he spent a week in the Intensive Care Unit breathing with the assistance of a ventilator. His vital signs were constantly monitored and his medications were carefully adjusted to prevent potentially dangerous blood clots. His neurological baseline remains to be determined and I continue to pray for his full recovery. The road ahead is long and challenging, but I am grateful today that my brother is a testimony rather than a fatality.

No matter our age or health history, we may be unknowing candidates for heart disease, which the American Heart Association ranks as the number one killer (1). The American College of Cardiology estimates that more than a million people will experience some sort of coronary event this year (2), and many will be fatal. The Center for Disease Control reports that one out of every four deaths in the United States may be attributed to heart disease (3).

The chances of surviving a heart attack improve dramatically if we recognize the warning signs and seek prompt medical attention. Symptoms of a heart attack or cardiac arrest may include discomfort in the chest or other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, cold sweat, sudden loss of responsiveness, and abnormal breathing. Often the symptoms are vague, especially for women, which makes an accurate diagnosis more difficult. If the warning signs are ignored, as my brother may have ignored recurring pain in his upper back between his shoulders, the results can be catastrophic.

Lifestyle changes make a significant difference in promoting good health. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day. Add more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your meals. The American Heart Association encourages everyone to stop smoking, limit alcohol consumption, reduce blood pressure and blood cholesterol, and manage stress (4). Harvard Medical School confirms a correlation between stress and heart disease (5), perhaps because stressors induce unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, drinking and overeating, that can damage the cardiovascular system.

None of us can avoid stress in our lives, but you can be more intentional about exercise, diet and relaxation. Whether you seek spiritual enrichment through prayer, the bible or other sacred texts, meditation, or choose other sources of inspiration and healing to achieve a sound mind and body, it’s important to guard your heart so you may enjoy a long lifetime of good health.

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