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Letter from Publisher: Looking at the Heart in a Different Light

Feb 01, 2021 08:30AM ● By Bernice Butler
February is the commercially designated month of love, when we are encouraged to celebrate special loved ones, particularly romantically significant others. The tradition begins very early, in elementary school, where children make heart-shaped cards for their parents and typically are allowed to bring valentines and heart-shaped candy for the entire class. Later, as boys and girls begin to like each other rather than being repelled by each other, the heart-cards are given to special someones—and then, as they say, the rest is history.

Even though many parents try to teach their children to spread the love around—to siblings, for example, or to others who are meaningful in their lives—the focus tends to be on romantic things, helped along by all the overt and subliminal messages driven by the “Valentine’s Day commercial-industrial complex”. I’m referring to the mechanizations that churn out myriad heart-shaped boxes of candy; retailers of diamond jewelry, heart-shaped or otherwise; and restaurants with their candlelit meals for two (and now I guess delivery service); not to mention flower shops. It’s estimated that 2021 Valentine’s Day spending will be approximately $30 billion, up approximately 30 percent from 2019, with more than 1 billion cards exchanged, and cementing Valentine’s Day as the second-largest card-sending day behind Christmas.

All of this is well and good. We should celebrate our significant others throughout the year, and indeed we do, especially on anniversaries, Christmas and birthdays. But what if we turned these overwhelming, sometimes over-the-top expressions of love—the showering with gifts, the special dining celebrations and other targeted activities—on the other heart, the one inside us that is the existential center of our being that defines who and what we are and from whom or what all else flows? The heart is undoubtedly the most important organ in the human body. It operates and regulates blood circulation, carrying oxygen, hormones and nutrients that nourish and sustain our other organs so they work properly. It communicates to our brain and it is the seat and origin of our emotions and behaviors.

Our instruction manual, the Bible, definitively tells us in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” So why aren’t we celebrating our heart on Valentine’s Day by exercising it, giving it preventive medical care, treating it to heart-healthy meals and regularly cleansing the negative thoughts, emotions and behaviors that can harm it? Why aren’t companies, doctors and hospitals hyping heart checkups, echocardiograms and stress tests with special promotions and prices? The Centers for Disease Control says about one in three adults has at least one type of cardiovascular disease, and heart disease and stroke cost Americans approximately $1 billion a day in health care and lost productivity. And this figure does not even begin to address the mental, emotional and behavioral costs of poor heart health. While the American Heart Association does a great job of research and advocacy—I love their “Go Red” campaign—I think we need a national, highly commercialized holiday to focus and coalesce attention and action around our physical heart.

With this month’s special issue on heart-centered living, we are doing some advocacy of our own by focusing on everything “heart”—from interesting and delicious heart-healthy recipes to tips from a cardiovascular surgeon on how not to have to see him, heart-conscious relationships and more. We hope you find something that helps you live a heart-healthy life on a healthy planet and encourages you to join in my chorus for a big, over-the-top “My Heart” holiday.

Blessings until next month,

Bernice, Publisher
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