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Week 6: Walk For Your Heart

February is American Heart Month, so I decided to find a way to connect my walking to heart disease awareness. I thought back to the days when I first started walking for exercise (not walking from A to B or because I didn't have a ride somewhere). I can still see the Iowa sunset over the hospital across the street from my Grandma's house, and see my Grandma walking in her light blue cotton trousers and a light, short-sleeved shirt. Her doctor had told her she needed to exercise to help with her heart condition. My sister and I were staying with her. We and our Great Aunt, joined my Grandma on one of her evening walks. Four women walked down the street in my hometown enjoying the evening air and the company of each other.

When I walk, I like to dedicate my walks some days to different causes. This month, I am going to dedicate my walks every week to heart disease. This week, I am walking 6,000 steps a day. Even when I am walking around my living room or basement in circles or having my Friday night living room 80s dance party with my dogs, I will be thinking of heart disease. I will be thinking of how every step I take is one step closer to having a healthier heart myself.

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Walking is great exercise to prevent heart disease. The blood is flowing through your body, your heart rate goes up, but not too quickly, and it is relatively easy on your joints. Walking also can reduce risk factors for heart disease like hypertension and hypercholesterolemia and may address other issues like obesity. Even for those who are obese, being active and overweight is better than being inactive and underweight. "Skinny" does not equal healthy. The other great thing about walking is that you can do it anywhere.

Another great result of walking (and other exercise, too) is that it improves your mood and relaxes you. It allows you time to feel better and destress. That means that you are less likely to get angry or upset. When someone is angry or upset, they are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. The angry reaction or upset behavior causes a dramatic and sudden increase in heart rate and thus blood pressure.  A clot may then be dislodged. The clot then travels to the heart and/or to the brain, potentially causing a heart attack or stroke.

As you walk your 6,000 steps this week, think about how walking is reducing your risk of heart disease. Think about how you will walk for your heart and for your life.