Living Columns & Blogs

Read your way to a healthy heart this February

Every year since 1964, U.S. presidents have issued proclamations marking February as American Heart Month. This year, while considering a heart for your Valentine, please also consider giving yourself the gift of heart health. Your local public library can help.

One must-read book published this year is "The Living Heart in the 21st Century," by cardiologists Michael E. DeBakey and Antonio M. Gotto, Jr. The authors begin by explaining risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and obesity and how to lower the risk factor in each instance.

The latter part of the book deals with how to determine heart health through a thorough medical history and noninvasive testing. Should problems be found, the cardiologists explain the meaning of a number of diagnoses and the accepted treatment in each case. Written in layman's language, the slim volume is an easily understood education in cardiovascular health.

For those who prefer audiobooks, the Beaufort library owns the "Playaway Heart 411: The Only Guide to Heart Health You'll Ever Need," by heart surgeon Marc Gillinov and cardiologist Steven Nissen.

These doctors tackle the heart health dilemma from the point of view of patients who have had pressing questions: "Can the stress of my job really lead to a heart attack? How does exercise help my heart, and what is the right amount and type of exercise? What are the most important tests for my heart, and when do I need them? How do symptoms and treatments differ among men, women and children?" Playaways are great gizmos for "reading" while walking or doing yard work. All you need is one AAA battery and headphones or earbuds. The Playaway is compact enough to go in a pocket -- no tape or CD to fall out. The unit is self-contained. For those library patrons who prefer to read the book, the Beaufort library also owns the printed version.

Beaufort and other libraries in our SCLends consortium will lend the DVD "The Hidden Epidemic: Heart Disease in America." Larry King interviews medical experts on practical ways to increase heart health. Other segments include personal interviews with patients that highlight medical advances in treating heart disease.

Readers who would like to browse the shelves to discover books, audios or DVDs on heart health should go to the nonfiction area 616.12.

Those of you who already have decided on exercise as the best means of increasing heart health might like to read "The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer," by Gretchen Reynolds, who writes the Phys Ed column for the New York Times. Reynolds focuses on dispelling myths about exercise that could cause more harm than good. For instance, stretching before exercise is bad; warming up is good. Why? The author explains. Approaching her subject with humor and practical explanations, Reynolds produces a highly readable book.

Hilton Head Island library owns "Six Weeks to Skinny Jeans," by Amy Cotta. Combining both diet and exercise, this practical book even shows readers how to clear the pantry of foods on the "no" list to remove temptation.

Give yourself the gift of heart health this February and let your local branch library help.