-Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-Swiss-U.S. scientist
Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, but rather the hero's heart.
GK Chesterton, the genius philosopher of the early 20th century, rightly pointed out that every person has two of most things, two eyes, two ears, two legs, and even two lobes of the brain. But every person has only one heart.
Why is this? Science might give us answers, but my answer is this: Life is a miracle and the miracle of life lies deep in the heart. We should never take our own life and our one heart for granted.
Sometimes when I stop and think about my own heart beating, I realize how lucky I am to be alive in this very moment, and it gives me a sense of joy.
“There is a road from the eye to heart that does not go through the intellect.” Chesterton said.
Throughout eternity, the heart has always been a special place. We can never explain the connection we have to the heart we have through science alone. We’ve sung about it, written about it, and have now seemingly mastered it with modern medicine and can now keep people alive with artificial hearts. But we all know that’s a lie, because the heart is much deeper than that.
In my book, Movement & Meaning, I wrote about a simple and powerful fact: When we are depressed, if we can get up and move and just go for a walk, we will beat this horrible mental ailment. Movement is medicine for the heart, for the soul, and for life. Mental illness, stress, anxiety, and depression- these are signs that something is not right. Movement is an expression of the will to live, to fight, and it means we care. Movement will beat mental illness. The heart moves us onward and expresses our desires, our wills, and our love.
On the opposite side of the coin, stress and hostility are two factors which cause heart disease and hurt the heart. The heart was made for love and for caring, not for rage and for feeling hopeless and out of control. The heart argues, the heart cares, the heart loves, the heart beats, but the heart does not do well without hope, without feeling, and without soul. So movement can spur us onward and strengthen the heart. We care so we move.
Cardiovascular disease is the biggest killer in the western world and so the heart and cardiovascular system benefit the most from exercise. The heart is traditionally viewed as the place where we hold our deepest self. The health of the heart and mind are closely linked together. Stress can take its toll on your heart. Negative emotions and poor relationships or living conditions can all take their toll on the physical heart. If you become sick in a psychological sense, research has shown it can hurt your heart.
Dr. William Debakey, a celebrity in the medical field and a pioneer in the field of cardiovascular medicine, helped develop the first heart transplant and practiced medicine up in to his 90s. Debakey memorably said “the key to aging is love and dedication, feeling like you have a contribution to make, to give of yourself and your own life and your abilities to ease the life of others.” Debakey knew a thing about dedication as he conducted research, practiced medicine and cared for his patients and family, helped invent health care products, and served in leadership roles until the latter days of his life. Debakey was true to his own ethos on aging in his demonstration of the values of self-discipline, character, compassion, passion, and intellectual achievement.
In a purely physical sense the heart and arteries keep us alive by delivering blood and oxygen to all areas of the body, including the brain. You can live without a kidney, a leg, or an eye, but you will not live long without a healthy heart.
It is so important to perform aerobic exercise for heart health that if you were to do nothing else but walk 2-3 miles per day for the rest of your life, your quality of life and longevity would improve dramatically. Aerobic exercise decreases blood pressure, increases heart and capillary strength, decreases the risk of stroke and diabetes, and improves arterial blood flow to the brain and sex organs, among many other benefits.
We identified one of the main causes of aging as glycation earlier (remember, glycation is what makes the brown stuff on top of cooked lasagna), which occurs inside the body and creates “gunk”. This gunk inflames, damages, and ages the cells and tissues of the body.
As we age our insulin production declines, causing a concurrent rise in blood glucose (blood sugar) levels and bodyfat, which can in turn lead to even more accumulation of cellular waste products and inflammation in the body, including in the arteries. Aerobic exercise helps to maintain proper glucose (blood sugar) levels and prevent the accumulation of many of these waste products as we age, helping facilitate the delivery of circulating blood glucose in to the working cells.
This is one of the “miracle aging” effects of exercise- the proper regulation of blood glucose levels and the prevention of “gunk” accumulation. As we learned earlier, diabetes provides a microcosm of aging- high blood sugar runs rampant, damaging the cells and systems of the body.
Lifetime habits are a strong predictor of the health of the heart and its delivery system, the arteries. My question for you is, do you care enough in your heart? Do you care enough to move?
By maintaining aerobic fitness throughout life, good functioning of the organs and systems of the body is much more likely. The heart is the center of our existence, where spirit, mind, and body meet. Psychological health leads to good heart health and a healthy heart will allow us to then in turn maintain good psychological health by giving us energy, decreasing inflammation in our bodies and allowing our brain to function highly.
So my advice to keep your heart strong as you age is this: Just walk.
Just care. Walk with no purpose in mind. You’re alive so enjoy it. Walk 2-3 miles a day and you’ll live 10 years longer. If you can’t walk, cycle. If you can’t cycle, swim. If you can’t swim, crawl. Just move.
Your heart is a miracle. Your life is a miracle. The world needs you my friends and the world needs your heart in it.
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