Getting to the heart of Valentine's Day 

Loving consideration of our own tender hearts

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Lead with your heart, not your head. Or the other way around, as you prefer.

Heart of gold. Heart of stone. Heart of a lion.

The heart is a lonely hunter.

Here comes Saint Valentine's Day — in honour of at least one of the Christian martyrs so-named — and at its heart, of course, lies the heart, loaded with a freight of meaning real and tangible as well as metaphorical and beyond.

The heart is always opening and closing, hardening or softening, Leonard Cohen observed at a point early in his evolution from poet to songwriter. The Great One was referring to love and the symbolic heart, but so it is also for the real heart.

With any good luck, each of our own hearts will continue to open and close rhythmically and regularly, neither hardening nor softening too much as time goes on.

And so this Valentine's Day, to ensure same, show true love to yourself and those you love by taking a vow to treat your faithful heart nicely, very nicely.

Feed it well. Exercise it. Care for it dearly and constantly, as it deserves — which includes keeping it clean, as in, not so much in the smoking, drugs and alcohol department — and your heart will respond with gratitude. Or at least as positively as it can.

The human heart weighs between 250 and 350 grams, or about 9 to 12 ounces. It starts to beat 80 times per minute about three weeks after conception and keeps on going until we die. That's billions of beats, billions of openings and closings or, more scientifically, expansions and contractions, which our poor hearts have to muscle their way through, day in, day out.

I say cut them a break before they break up with us.

My good doctor suggests doing regular health routines, like breast self-examination, on a date easy to remember each month, like your birth date. So how about using each Valentine's Day to do a reality check on how we're treating our dear hearts, and follow up on the 14th of each in-between month to stop slippage.

To start, let's look at the basics of heart smart eating.

I don't know about your days, but mine are pretty busy. Plus even at the best of times I'm not good at remembering things like less than 7 per cent of my daily calories should be from saturated fats; less than 1 per cent should be from trans fats; and I should eat fewer than 300 milligrams a day of cholesterol if I'm a healthy adult, and fewer than 200 milligrams a day if I have high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad" cholesterol, or if I'm taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. Then there's the record keeping and the subsequent calculations. Whew. Who's really going to navigate all that?

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