It seems appropriate that I reflect on the end of one month and look forward to the next, as Little Pickle Press is wrapping up our theme for January-- focusing on healthy eating. February, luckily, is a time in which the CDC suggests we celebrate American Heart Month. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? At the first of the year, we focused on what we eat to fuel our bodies and keep them healthy and then go right into the next month deciding that our hearts are worth looking into as well.
My family takes eating healthy very seriously. A few years ago we just decided that we wanted more family time around the table and, naturally, that meant we put more thought into the foods we bought and the meals we planned. Our plates are colorful and, because of that one commitment, we started feeling better.
After that, we added more activities together like tennis, bike riding, and a bi-weekly open gym volleyball game at our local gym. Good eating plus physical activities made our whole family better. I’d like to think that we put into motion something that put us on the path to healthier lives. But, really, we just started protecting our hearts, didn’t we?
In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell writes about those things that lie outside of our normal experiences. The first chapter of that book is about a section of eastern Pennsylvania where a transplanted culture called the Rosetans came from southern Italy. The people there were outliers because they rarely died from heart disease. In the U.S. cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death, but somehow the Rosetans escaped it and were studied by many physicians and social workers and researchers. None of this made sense considering the fact that they had fatty diets (they used lots of lard and salt), smoked, and rarely exercised. In fact, Gladwell went on to write that the doctors who discovered this worked at convincing the medical community that they had to go back to the drawing board to discover how heart attacks worked. He writes:
“They had to get them to realize that you couldn’t understand why someone was healthy if all you did was think about their individual choices or actions in isolation.”
The conclusion, then, was that they looked at how they lived their lives. What Gladwell learned from the researchers was that the Rosetan community was highly social and visited one another regularly, they valued their extended families, and the town was wholly committed to caring for one another. In a way, these people were living a sort of magical existence that I haven’t been privileged to experience in my lifetime, but it’s something to be desired, wouldn’t you say?
It’s not just the healthy eating, family time, or exercise that’s a worthy goal, but that every choice we make adds up to a healthier person overall. I can’t imagine that I can recreate everything the Rosetans did and live past 55 without ever having cardiovascular trouble, but I can consciously making the kind of decisions that make my heart happy. After all, it’s the only one I’ve got to love with so I’d better take care of it.
photo credit: Caro Wallis via photopin cc