I had my first open heart surgery in Omaha Nebraska at the age of 24, and could not believe I was getting ready to face my second open heart surgery twenty years later.

I will never forget Dr. Churchwell telling me “you have the strongest unhealthy heart I’ve ever seen.” He was doing a consultation with my surgeon prior to repairing my congenital heart defect in 2007.

It sounded quite strange but then I realized he was actually complimenting me on my fitness. As he diagrammed the shape of my heart on the small dry-erase board in my hospital room, one side of my heart appeared normal in size, while the other side took up  the rest of the board.

The side with the hole was really “big”. He said “Once the repair is made the large side will return to normal, and the other enlarged organs will return to normal, as well.” Funny how one little hole was impacting my whole body. Actually we found out days later there were 3 holes in my heart that needed repaired.

Characterizing me as passionate about heart health is an understatement. God has healed my heart physically and spiritually, and He has taught me the process of pacing myself, tweaking my workouts and listening to my body. God wants each of us to have a “big” heart for Him, and His people, while maintaining a healthy heart through exercise. When the physical and spiritual architecture of the heart are in sync, it produces the right beat for a sweet-heart.

Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in the United States and affects more people than all cancers combined.

About 30 percent of non-diabetics and 50 percent of diabetic patients don't have traditional symptoms such as chest pains before they experience a heart attack.

Exercising has taught me the importance of noticing how my body is feeling at all times. I have become so in tune with my body’s mechanics that I know quickly when I have a problem. It’s important for you to develop this kind of attention to your body, too, especially when it comes to your heart. Heart disease is one of the most common killers in America, and it’s something we shouldn’t take lightly.

Here are a few heart facts to keep in mind:

  • One in three women die of heart disease each year, making it the number one killer.
  • Even though cardiovascular disease accounts for 43 percent of all female deaths, few women view it as a significant health risk.
  • Women who experience frequent symptoms related to heart disease may receive inadequate attention from health care providers compared to men because heart attack symptoms are different for women. So be persistent about getting the help you need.
  • Each year, about 88,000 women ages 45–64, and about 372,000 women ages 65 and older, have a heart attack.

Factors that increase risk for heart disease:

  • Smoking—About 21.2 million women smoke.
  • High blood pressure—33 percent of women have hypertension, which affects about 2.5 million women.
  • Overweight/Obese—62 percent of women are overweight, including those who are obese.
  • Physical inactivity—More women than men are physically inactive, with 41 percent of women engaging in no leisure physical activity and more than 60 percent not meeting the recommended amount of at least thirty minutes a day of moderate physical activity such as walking.
  • Diabetes—Nearly 7 million women have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 3 million are undiagnosed.

Tips for your heart’s health:

  • Stay physically active.
  • Stop smoking, and avoid other people’s smoke if possible.
  • Control high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol through exercise and diet.
  • Cut down on fats, saturated fats, and salt in your diet.
  • Make a commitment to reduce your weight if you are overweight.

Choose the following cardiovascular activities to keep your heart healthy:

  • a brisk walk outside or inside a shopping mall with a friend
  • take your pet for a walk
  • garden when the weather allows
  • take up swimming
  • bike indoors on a stationary bike or outdoors when weather is nice
  • join a group exercise class
  • walk on a treadmill or elliptical trainer
  • jog or run indoors or outdoors

Some of the Benefits of Daily Physical Exercise

  • Reduces the risk of heart disease by improving blood circulation
  • Keeps weight under control
  • Improves blood cholesterol levels
  • Prevents Bone Loss
  • Prevents and manages high blood pressure
  • Counters anxiety & depression
  • Helps delay or prevent chronic illnesses & diseases associated with aging and maintains quality of life and independence longer

Exercise is only one part of the story. It is most important we guard our hearts and meditate on God’s word daily. There is no electronic heart monitor to spiritually keep and protect the heart. That is why it is so important to stay in His word. He tells us in Proverbs 4:20-23 to listen to His words and never let them get away from us. He tells us to keep them in our hearts and they will give life and health to anyone who understands.

Stress, loss, disappointment and heartache can fester and destroy a healthy heart. Take the issues to God immediately and work them out. Do not let them linger and grab a foothold. They can be as destructive as clogged arteries because they can steal hope. Proverbs 13:12 tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

When we trust Him fully, God turns disappointments into opportunities for joy. He is always working things out for our good and His glory. We can all recall obstacles that He turned into footstools. When things work out, without explanation, you have just experienced the grace of God.

My life has had its up and downs, but I am climbing higher, thanks to Him. My former lack of trust has been replaced with Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and he will make your path straight.”

God can heal a broken, disappointed or hard heart. He fills all the holes and tells us so in Ezekiel 36:26. “I will give you a new heart and a new mind. I will take away your stubborn heart of stone and give you an obedient heart.”

Did you know that bouncing on a Ball is good for your heart? Randy Lanham demonstrates low impact Ball Bounces that will increase our heart rate and strengthen our bodies. I love the Ball and I love how it helps support our Heart Health!