A Heart Healthy Recipe from Mary....


Looking for a heart healthy recipe? Look no further! My beautiful wife has decided to share one of her amazing recipes with the IATH community. Try it out soon and let us know how it tastes!

Skillet - Grilled Burritos


3 cups cooked chopped chicken breast

1 chopped onion

1- 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained

1-11oz can mexicorn or yellow corn with red and green bell papers drained

4 oz (1 cup) of shredded cheddar or Colby cheese

2 Tbsp diced pickled jalapeño peppers

2 tsp Dijon mustard

8 - (6 or 8 inch) tortilla soft shells



Stir all ingredients together.

Fill the tortilla shells evenly with the mixture.    

Fold tortilla in half and place in oil or buttered pan and "grill' till brown. 

Serve with a salad on side and enjoy!

Everyone who partners with my campaign will receive a FREE digital copy of my book!

An Opportunity You Can't Miss!


“We would absolutely love to have his book!”

–Go Red for Women Director,

American Heart Association

 IATH has partnered with Go Red for Women! Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association's national movement to end heart disease and stroke in women. In June, 400 women will receive FREE copies of our book & study guide!

This is an opportunity you cannot miss!

Because this is so important to me, I’m giving FREE DIGITAL COPIES of my book to anyone who partners with us by giving towards this campaign!

 Join us as we help end heart disease and stroke in women by giving to this campaign TODAY!

All proceeds will go towards covering costs of books and shipping


Don’t forget to support your favorite non-profit by ordering your mother’s day gifts from Amazon Smile!

Giving is Good for Your Heart


There is research that proves giving is good for your health! It can actually add years to your life!

Giving can mean anything from donating money to your favorite charity (ahem…that would be us, right?) to volunteering in your community. Practicing this one simple act can result in health benefits years later!

 Keep reading to learn about the health benefits of giving….

  1. It protects from heart disease

    High volunteerism has been discovered to have a correlation with lower levels of heart disease!

  2. It helps you live longer

    The Corporation for National & Community Service has discovered that people who volunteer their time have lower mortality rates.

  3. It makes you happier

    Harvard did a study of people suffering from multiple sclerosis. They were asked to make compassionate calls to others suffering from the disease. The study showed lower depression rates in the callers after a 6-week period.



It’s Always the Heart is donating over 500 of our books and study guides to spread the message of the connection between the spiritual & physical heart! But, I need YOUR HELP!  

I need YOUR HELP!  

To make this dream a reality, we need people like YOU…people that have a passion for helping others… to give towards this campaign!

And, IF YOU GIVE today, I’ll GIVE YOU a digital copy of my book as a way to say THANK YOU…and hopefully all this giving will prolong our lives ;)


Why forgiveness is good for you....


There is an enormous burden to being hurt or disappointed. It can leave you feeling sad, lost and hopeless, or angry, bitter and mistrusting. Carrying our hurts around impacts us on a physical level, too. It can lead to depression, heart disease, and diabetes. And, research at Johns Hopkins has shown that as we age there is an increase in this forgiveness-health connection.

Jesus understood this connection between forgiveness and our health. Not only did He speak about forgiveness during His time on earth, but in His last dying breath, He chose to forgive. That one simple act unlocked eternity for all of mankind. What will one simple act of forgiveness unlock for you?

What will one simple act of forgiveness unlock for you?

Sign up for my monthly newsletter to learn more about the connection between our health and practicing forgiveness.

A Spiritual Heart Health Tip for Women

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By now, it’s common knowledge that heart health should be taken seriously. But, what we often don’t recognize is the connection between the spiritual state of the heart and the impact it has upon our physical heart health. Here is something you can do TODAY to improve your spiritual heart health while treating and healing the physical state of your heart, too.

Women are eternal caretakers.

Work to Manage Stress & Negative Situations in a Positive Way

Women are eternal caretakers. From children to friends and spouses, you are sometimes the glue that holds us all together. Thank you for that! But, this can take a toll on you! The pressure of “taking care of” everything can negatively impact your health.

Often, in order to deal with the stress in our lives, we sometimes tend to adopt bad habits like smoking, drinking excessively, overeating or undereating. Instead, we should work to manage stress in a more positive way by practicing positive self-talk, engaging in a hobby, or even going for a walk. You’ll find it amazing how much these small things can do for an over-stressed mom, friend, sister, employee, or wife.

For more in-depth information on heart health, sign up for my monthly newsletter where I’ll discuss holistic health solutions to the spiritual and physical ailments we face without having to always rely on medications and procedures. You can sign up below!


Women + Heart Health

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First, Happy National Women’s Month! At It’s Always the Heart, everything this month is focused on WOMEN! You can expect some great information on heart disease prevention (physical and spiritual) and some personal reflections on what the women in my life have taught me about heart health. I’d like to start the month off by helping you understand 2 key performance measures that are helpful when trying to prevent heart disease.


High blood pressure is known to have a negative impact on our hearts so it’s important to know and understand healthy blood pressure numbers. Any time you are given your blood pressure numbers, you should know that the top number is your systolic blood pressure (or the pressure measured when your heart contracts). The bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure, which is the pressure measured when your heart is relaxed.  A healthy systolic number should be below 120 while your diastolic should be below 80. Any numbers outside of this range should be discussed with your doctor immediately. This could be a sign of hypertension, a known factor of heart disease.


High blood sugar is also known to negatively impact our hearts because elevated levels can result in the development of plaque in your arteries. On the other hand, low blood sugar can be a problem too! By the time you’re 30, you should have your blood sugar numbers every couple of years. By your 40s, increase this check up to annually. Appropriate levels should fall between 70-99 mm/dL. Again, numbers outside of this range should be discussed with your doctor immediately.

Obviously, a heart healthy diet, regular exercise, and self-care are important routines to add to your life, but keeping up with your blood pressure and blood sugar numbers can help you to measure your heart health factors.

For more in-depth information on heart health, sign up for my monthly newsletter where I’ll discuss holistic health solutions to the spiritual and physical ailments we face without having to always rely on medications and procedures. You can sign up below!

Love Is Good for Your Heart

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You ever wonder why the Bible is always putting such a high important on love? It tells us that God loved us so much that He gave. It says that perfect love casts out all fear, and Paul teaches us that our love should be kind, patient, and forgiving. Out of a heart of love, we give, we comfort, we forgive. But did you know when we walk in that pure spiritual love the Bible teaches that our physical heart also benefits? 

According to EveryHealth.com, there are 7 reasons love is good for the heart.

  1. It lowers blood pressure

    Researchers found that people who spend time with their romantic partners experience a greater dip in their blood pressure than when they spend time with a stranger.

  2. It makes your heart stronger

    When you connect with the love of your life, your brain releases hormones that make your heart beat faster and stronger, and these quick spikes can train your heart to pump blood more efficiently.

  3. Hugs are good for your heart

    When you hug someone you love, your body releases a hormone that has the power to reduce stress and lower blood pressure.

  4. Laughter makes your blood flow more freely

    Laughter can causes your blood vessels to expand, which is similar to the benefit you experience with aerobic exercise.

  5. Love letters can lower cholesterol

    Spending 20 minutes writing about your affection for a loved one helps you experience drops in your total cholesterol

  6. A positive attitude reduces heart attack risk

    People who feel joy, happiness, contentment, or excitement more often have a lower risk for cardiovascular disease.

  7. Holding hands calms nerves

    Holding hands with your loved one can help to reduce the brain activity associated with stress and anxiety.

    Even though Valentine’s Day is over, practice purposefully loving those around you. It’s good for your heart!

Practice purposefully loving those around you!

What Is Amazon Smile?

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You’ve been hearing us talk a lot about our upcoming partnership with Amazon Smile, but you may not know EXACTLY what Amazon Smile actually is. As you know, we want to expand our reach outside of social media so that we can educate even more people on the connection between the spiritual and physical heart. In order to do this, we decided to use Amazon Smile as a fundraising tool for It’s Always the Heart.

 AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, and shopping features as Amazon.com. The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate a portion of your purchase price of eligible products to It’s Always the Heart.

AmazonSmile Foundation will donate a portion of your purchase price of eligible products to It’s Always the Heart.

Here’s how to get started:

  1.  Visit smile.amazon.com

  2. Sign in using your existing Amazon login credentials. If you don’t have an account, you can create a new one.

  3. On your first visit to AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com), you are prompted to select a charitable organization from the list of eligible organizations. Make sure to select It’s Always the Heart!

  4. Start shopping!

For the more tech-savvy, you cannot use Amazon Smile with the Amazon App on the iPhone, but you can create a shortcut to the Amazon Smile website!

1.      If you have the Amazon App installed you should remove it.

2.      Launch your iPhone internet browser and go to smile.amazon.com

3.      Tap the ‘share’ button  on the bottom of the screen.

4.      Tap the “Add to Home Screen” option. (You may need to swipe left)

5.      Amazon Smile is now on your home screen and you can use it just like you would use the Amazon App!

Looking forward to an amazing year!

What's Next

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2018 was a great year for It’s Always the Heart! We focused on raising heart health awareness through social media, and I also had the opportunity to speak about the link between spiritual and physical heart health over the summer! In 2019, my goal is to continue to raise awareness between the spiritual and physical link of the heart, and the team and I have some great opportunities to make this happen.

We are looking to plan our first It’s Always the Heart event. My team is planning a free heart clinic and each attendee will receive a free copy of my book, “It’s Always the Heart.” We are also working on a summer heart health resource for anyone interested over the summer months. And last but not least, we’ll be releasing a monthly newsletter giving holistic health insights into heart health. There are many great things on the horizon in 2019!

There are many great things on the horizon in 2019!

To accomplish everything we hope for in 2019, we’ve decided to partner with Amazon Smile. Amazon Smile is just like the online marketplace, Amazon, but there’s an amazing added benefit. Amazon will donate a portion of Amazon Smile purchases to It’s Always the Heart. Look for the official launch of the Amazon Smile and It’s Always the Heart partnership soon!

As always, I appreciate your prayers and support as I work to help others uncover the mysteries that demonstrate the link between the spiritual and physical heart.

Mind Your Health: The Connection Between Anxiety and Heart Health

It was little wonder that chest pain, pressure, tightness, shortness of breath, and palpitations seemed to rule Jim’s life.

An excerpt from my book, It’s Always the Heart….

An exhausted, yet anxious, forty-five-year-old Jim walked into the exam room after several sleepless nights and an endless stream of twelve-hour workdays. Like the everyday stresses and strains in his life, his symptoms were not really new. In fact, as I would find out later in the exam, they had been steadily building for quite some time—perhaps even years. He did not really know where to start, so he began erratically telling me fragmented bits of information about an overwhelming number of complaints. He nervously answered yes to nearly every question I asked about the symptoms he had been experiencing. It was little wonder that chest pain, pressure, tightness, shortness of breath, and palpitations seemed to rule Jim’s life. His day was filled with chasing after the ever-elusive, unobtainable approval of others, when in reality, his focus should have been centered upon pleasing God.

Harvard Health believes that about a quarter of people with cardiovascular disease have some kind of anxiety problem and, in some cases, the anxiety seems to make the heart condition worse. As the association between anxiety and heart disease has not been fully studied, Dr. Una McCann from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine believes the connection is strong. “It’s my view and my personal clinical experience that anxiety disorders can play a major role in heart disease,” says Dr. McCann.

According to the Mayo Clinic, many people think anxiety is restricted to your mind, but your physical health is affected as well.

According to the Mayo Clinic, many people think anxiety is restricted to your mind, but your physical health is affected as well. Anxiety can cause abnormal heart rhythms, higher blood pressure, faster blood clotting, and lead to higher levels of insulin and cholesterol. Whatever it may cause, the answer is to address it spiritually in order to be healed physically.

If you struggle with anxiety, it’s important to keep things in perspective by reminding yourself that God really is in control. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” When you feel anxious, stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that He is control and will help you through. Rely on Him. Lean on Him. Trust Him.

I know that anxiety must also be addressed from a physical standpoint, and the Mayo Clinic lists some great tips below!

1) Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It’s best if you develop a regular routine and work out most days of the week. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity.

2) Avoid alcohol and other sedatives as they can worsen anxiety

3) Use relaxation techniques. Visualization, meditation, and yoga are examples of relaxation techniques that can ease anxiety

4) Make sleep a priority. Do what you can to make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep.

5) Quit smoking and cut back or quit drinking coffee. Both nicotine and caffeine can worsen anxiety.


Mind Your Health: The Connection Between Depression & Heart Health

A  cheerful  heart  is  good  medicine,  but  a  crushed  spirit dries up the bones. —Proverbs 17:22

An excerpt from my book, It’s Always the Heart

Realizing the severity of the symptoms, Mrs. Tallent (as we will call her)  had the presence of mind to slowly lower herself to the floor of the bathroom and crawl to the telephone to call her daughter, who summoned the paramedics to Mrs. Tallent’s home. On the paramedics’ arrival, Mrs. Tallent was pale and short of breath, and she had broken into a cold sweat.  She was still having chest discomfort, and it was becoming harder to breathe.

Hearing the emergency-room physician declare, “Mrs. Tallent, you are having a heart attack,” felt like a dream.

The nausea didn’t subside even when lying down, causing her to feel as though she were going to pass out at any moment. On arrival at her local small-town emergency room, she was taken to the chest pain center,  and her clinical situation was quickly assessed.  Following blood tests and an electrocardiogram,  treatment was initiated to relieve Mary’s symptoms. Hearing the emergency-room physician declare, “Mrs. Tallent, you are having a heart attack,” felt like a dream—Looking back on that evening, I’m not sure I’ll ever witness a moment that would better illustrate the confidence and comfort alluded to by David in Psalm23:4:  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

God warns us the Devil works at times through our physical illnesses to introduce doubt and fear, which was precisely how Mrs. Tallent would be attacked now that she had faced death from interruption of blood flow to her most vital organ. There were no other blockages,  but the damage remained in Mary’s mind. I was confident that God would use Mrs. Tallent’s near-death experience as a beautiful example of how someone can heal physically and spiritually from an attack on his or her most important organ. God gives hearts the same importance in spiritual health as well as physical health. Experience had taught me that despite her standing on a solid foundation, it would take a healing of Mrs. Tallent’s spiritual heart as she battled the lies of the Devil that she would always have a heart problem.

Research shows that depression can increase the risk of heart disease and can worsen an existing condition. According to the American Psychological Association, long-term studies reveal that men and women diagnosed with clinical depression are more than twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease or suffer a heart attack. On the other hand, happy people have healthier levels of fibrinogen and cortisol in their blood, making them less vulnerable to cardiovascular disease. This research reflects the truth found in Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine,  but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Just like any other condition, we must address the spiritual and physical condition of the heart to experience healing.

Just like any other condition, we must address the spiritual and physical condition of the heart to experience healing. Depression can make us feel hopeless, and the only thing that will actually change this is God’s hope. God’s hope is encouraging and motivating, and His Word is full of scriptures reflecting this. Proverbs 23:18 says, “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off”. Psalm 37:9 tells us, “Those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land”, and Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you downcast, o my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God”. When facing depression, put your hope in Him.

Depression must also be addressed physically. The Cleveland Clinic gives great tips on dealing with depression. Check them out below!

1)     Get dressed every day

2)     Get out and walk daily

3)     Resume hobbies and social activities you enjoy

4)     Share your feeling with your spouse, friend, or member of the clergy

5)     Don’t use harmful habits to cope, such as smoking, using drugs, drinking excessively or                  overeating. These harmful habits increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Mind Your Health: The Connection Between Stress and Heart Disease

The blockage was so tight, blood was getting through, literally, only one drop  at  a  time. 

An excerpt from my book, It’s Always the Heart….

The blockage was so tight, blood was getting through, literally, only one drop at a time.  How he kept from suffering a massive heart attack in the eight days prior to coming in on his own terms, truly only God knows. It reminded me that even when we make bad decisions that are potentially harmful to our lives, God still protects us.

 The morning after his heart-cath procedure, Mr. Important (as we will call him) confided in me that the natural stresses associated with his thirty-four-year marriage—as well as the relationship(or lack thereof) with his children—had weighed heavily on his chest. Relationships have to be nurtured, and by his own admission, he had always been driven to be superior at providing financially for the loved ones in his life, but rarely nurturing. Time spent at becoming, as he put it, “a self-made man” stole the time away from nurturing relationships with his wife and children.

It had been only three short months since Mr. Important’s stent procedure, when he came in forhis first post-stent evaluation. In stark contrast to his attitude during our first office visit, his hardened heart had already begun softening to God’s Word…. In short, God was leading him to a point of understanding that a long-lasting change in his physical heart would first require a change in his spiritual heart.

The Bible tells us in Colossians 3:17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Many times we lose sight of this command because we let the demands and pressures of this world become more important. When our motives become more about “me, me, me” and less about “Him, Him, Him”, stress begins to creep in.

The American Psychological Association has discovered that “prolonged stress due to the pressures at home, on the job, or from other sources can contribute to abnormally high blood pressure and circulation problems”. The American Heart Association believes “stress may affect behaviors and factors that increase heart disease risk.” It’s obvious that stress can impact our heart health. But what do we do about it?

First, let’s address our spiritual condition. Throughout the Bible, the scriptures address the condition of stress, but one of my favorite scriptures is found in Psalm 118:5-6 (ESV). It says, “out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Instead of living in stress, call out to the Lord and He will set you free. It may sound too simple for some of our over-complicated lives, but isn’t that the beauty of this passage? God’s answer to our mounds and mounds of worry, pressure, and stress isn’t to complicate our lives even further, but to simplify them. SIMPLY CALL ON HIM, and He will set you free.

Now that we’ve addressed the spiritual condition of the heart, we also need to address the physical condition. How you handle stress also influences your cardiovascular system’s response. So, it’s important that we handle stress in a healthy manner. Below are a few tips for on managing stress.

1)     Follow a Regular Sleep Routine

        Regular sleep can help you decompress and rejuvenate after a stressful day.

2)     Exercise Regularly

        The endorphins released when exercising can help improve your stress levels.

3)     Practice Deep Breathing

Take a few minutes every day and practice breathing in through your nose, letting your   abdomen expand and hold your breath for a count of three. Then, breathe out slowly through your mouth. Repeat this 3-5 times.

4)     Ask For Help

Sometimes we need a support network that can offer alternative strategies to help manage stress levels.

Happiness Protects Your Heart

Did you know that March 20, 2017 was the official International Day of Happiness around the world?

Did you know that March 20, 2017 was the official International Day of Happiness around the world? There has been a profound shift in attitudes across the world, and we, as a people, are beginning to recognize that progress isn’t only about growing an economy…about money. Progress is also about increasing our happiness and wellbeing.

This paradigm shift can even be found on the global political stage. In 2011, the UN recognized happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and began working towards an approach to promote happiness across the globe as a symbol of progress. In honor of this resolution, March 20th has been established as the annual International Day of Happiness.

As a doctor, I consider this an incredible sign! I firmly believe regardless of whether it’s the physical heart causing the symptoms, the condition of the spiritual heart must be addressed before complete healing can occur. We see the physical manifestations of poor spiritual health all the time. Maybe you’re stressed, overwhelmed, or perhaps battling an addiction. We don’t just feel these things emotionally and mentally. We experience them physically, too. Spiritual health is just as important as physical health!

Spiritual health is just as important as physical health!

In 1 Thessalonians, the Bible tell us to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We were created to be joyful, and we are not, our hearts manifest this issue. For example, a scientific study concluded in 2005 that happiness predicts lower heart rate and blood pressure. In 2008, research also uncovered a link between happiness and heart rate variability, which is associated with risk for various diseases. If that isn’t enough, an additional study in 2010 found that expressing positive emotions regularly over time puts people at a 22% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease. In essence, happiness protects the heart.

Happiness protects the heart

Since happiness can seem like such an abstract idea, I’ve listed ideas from the official website for the International Day of Happiness on how to increase happiness.  I want to challenge each of you to begin practicing these “disciplines” daily.

1.    Do things for others

       Helping others is not only good for them, but it also connect us to our community                            making us happier.

2.    Connect with people

       People with strong social relationships are happier, healthier, and live longer.

3.    Take care of your body

       Being active makes us happier. It improves our mood and can even lift us out of a depression.

4.    Be comfortable with who you are

       Learning to accept ourselves and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong, increases                our enjoyment of life, resilience, and well being.

5.    Be part of something bigger

       Meaning and purpose make people happier. People who possess meaning and purpose feel                more in control and less stressed and anxious.


Heart Health Lessons Women Taught Me

Women's History Month has been a great time for us to reflect on the impact that women have had on hearts around the world. It's been full of encouraging stories marked by courage and love. We've learned how a healthy heart can truly make an impact on the world around us and the people in our lives. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank the women in my life for the inspiration that they are to me on a daily basis. Your hearts are strong, beautiful, and brave. 

Because this has been such a great series, I wanted to highlight some very important things that all of us should remember when it comes to our heart health. Check out the list below for some important reminders exampled to us by women across the world about heart health. 

Heart Health Lessons Women Taught Me

1. When we have healthy spiritual hearts, we impact others

2. We must focus on maintaining our heart health, not just treating sickness

3. A strong heart can rejoice in the midst of difficult situations

4. We must be determined about your heart health

5. A compassionate heart will relieve the suffering of others

6. Self discipline is the first step towards heart health 

7. A hopeful heart has a purpose for the future

8. A faithful heart always wins

9. Proper nutrition is the first line of defense to foster good heart health

10. Forgiveness is part of heart health

11. Community is key to achieving and maintaining health

12. Do not let your heart grow weary…Perseverance is a discipline of the heart that anchors you in the face of adversity. Develop it for a healthy heart

13. The heart of a warrior sees past personal battles and fights for the future of others. 

14. A kind heart gives guidance to others

15. A faithful heart is beautiful 


Grocery Shopping For The Heart

As the primary grocery shopper and preparer of our meals at home, I have a heart to feed my family well with nutritious food that also tastes good.  I learned quickly from my husband, Arthur, that skipping meals and/or eating "low fat" or "non fat" versions of "food" did not help me have energy or lose weight.  I would skip breakfast thinking I was getting a head start on burning calories, only to eat much more later in the day to make up for what I had missed earlier.  I was eating "non fat" yogurt and ice cream and "healthy" bars etc.  I would see Arthur eating a lot of fruit - he loves oranges and bananas and other easy to eat snacks.  I would wonder why eating these so called "foods" that had the same caloric content as say an apple was not metabolized the same way.

You will get the vitamins and minerals your body craves, and you will look and feel your best.

I began to make a list of good food - from the sources that God made for us and then prepare my meals accordingly.  At the grocery store, I rely on different fruits and vegetables and a lot of packaged salad greens.  Heading then to the meat department I buy grass fed beef, chicken hopefully without hormones and wild caught fish such as salmon and orange roughy.  I do buy pasta and rice and some packaged food, but those that are not pre- prepared or frozen.  So instead of say Stouffers lasagna, I will make it myself so I know what is going in to the recipe.  I don't say – “oh that’s too fattening” - like butter and cheese.  Instead, I say, “If God made it, then we eat it”!   And I believe it is the packaged "non food" items that cause weight gain, inflammation and fatigue.  They also do not provide any nutrients that your body needs.  Buying and preparing "real food" doesn't take much time.  Keep recipes simple or just make grilled chicken with salad and a potato.  You can even put a bit of butter and sour cream on your potato and it will be healthier than french fries from the drive through.  You will get the vitamins and minerals your body craves, and you will look and feel your best.  

From my heart to yours,

Mary Constantine


The Importance of Metaphors In Medicine

I’ve always been fascinated by how patients of all ages, backgrounds, and health statuses can report symptoms of chest pain, pressure, tightness, shortness of breath, palpitations, rapid or skipping heartbeat, and countless other varied symptoms – and immediately, intuitively attribute the cause to their hearts. More interesting still is that often, their hearts are working just fine.

Even a coronary arteriogram, (or cardiac catheterization) will not convince a surprising number of patients that the physical heart is not the root of the trouble. And no wonder: The heart is the rhythm keeper we’re born with, tirelessly beating all day, every day, sustaining us without fail upon going to sleep and continuing its work as we rise and start again each morning.

In this way, the heart becomes a marker of time and symbol of our aliveness – our essence. And this is an association that’s spread to our vernacular. In conversation we get “to the heart of the matter.” When something is troubling our spirit we have a “heart-to-heart.” It is no wonder the heart is always on our mind.

When patients report the kinds of problems I earlier described, stress is frequently the culprit. And often, upon hearing this, they can feel a little embarrassed or confused – as though their concerns were fabricated or all in their heads. Of course, given everything we know about the link between stress, inflammation, and chronic illnesses such as heart disease, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

As physicians, it’s critical for us not to belittle a stress diagnosis, but instead discuss this important link. Because a healthy lifestyle impacts stress, that actually does take us back to many of the same changes we would recommend had an actual real-time heart problem been identified.

To my own patients, I use the example of thinking of their hearts as machines that must be cared for to sustain optimal performance. They cannot, for instance, just park these machines on the sofa, and they must feed them “premium gas,” not the cheap fast food or quick boxed or bagged foods that do not nourish our bodies. And they must identify practices – from spirituality to meditation to a hobby – that make them calm and happy each day, so the heart has the opportunity to beat at its steadiest, most optimal pace.

For many, stress can feel like a very vague, hard-to-act-upon diagnosis. But by tying it to the symptoms they perceive and prescribing actions around that, the solution becomes real and surmountable. It’s a reminder of the power symbols have in healing, and of how important metaphors are in medicine.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Becoming a Healthier You

I once had a patient, we’ll call him Matt, who suddenly started coming home from work every day and immediately kicking off his shoes and plopping down so hard into his chair that it would immediately force it back into a recliner position, feet up, head back, ready for a pre-dinner nap. He hadn’t acted like this in all of his 35 young adult years... what had changed?

As far back as anyone who knew him could remember, Matt had developed the good habit of exercising the body God blessed him with, and he was disciplined to commit to 45 minutes of exercise daily. He found ways to motivate himself until it became an automatic habit. He persevered, no matter the circumstance at work or at home, tending to his family and the kids' activities, and no matter the weather conditions. Exercise had become part of “who he was.”  Even when he got sick (this is a personal view and not necessarily medical advice), Matt felt exercise would sweat out the toxins and help him recovery more quickly.   

So how did this part of him change? The change in his attitude seemed to start, ever so gradually, after a shoulder injury (which occurred during exercise, so be careful and warm up) ultimately required a surgical procedure to repair. For optimal recovery, he was ordered post-surgical physical therapy and to refrain from his daily exercise routine for the first 6 weeks. Then he gradually returned to some forms of exercise that were not his preferred form of activity for another 6 weeks, then he gradually incorporated more strenuous activities while continuing to build up the muscles in the shoulder to regain the strength. This was not what Matt had become accustomed to. It was enough time, it appeared, to dramatically change the good habit he had maintained for more than 35 years! 

Matt became overwhelmingly busier at work, unable to finish the day at a time when he could exercise, even if he wanted to or was able to do so.  It would be logical to expect that this would free up an extra hour to accomplish daily tasks, now that this time was not spent exercising, yet his
“free time” became imperceptibly absorbed into his day, with no accountability on the day’s ledger. The lack of discipline to maintain a commitment to exercise mysteriously made its way into Matt's life.  He became more inefficient at work and secretly did not know how he would be able to find the time to squeeze exercise back into his life once he had completely healed—the way he had done all of his life!! 

Amazingly, Matt's diet was also affected. There was no time to prepare a healthy breakfast and there were no longer any leftovers from the previous night's dinner to bring for lunch—he ate it all the night before as his newfound lack of discipline spilled into his eating habits. He now resorted to boxed, bagged, fast foods available in place of the healthy choices he fueled his body with for so many years before. 

For those who find themselves needing to reclaim good health habits, there is no better time to start than today!

Matt definitely had no time for a relationship with God. Although he still fellowshipped with Him during the day—he loved Jesus—there was no longer “time” to spend meditating on His Word in the quiet peace of the morning as he had felt led to do years ago. This peace Matt had grown accustomed to starting his day with was missing. It was time for Matt to stop listening to the lies of what he could not do and time to take control of his life by listening to the truth of God's Word. He needed to start acting on the truth of what he could do. He needed to reclaim the good habits that he had worked so hard to develop all those years.  For Matt and others who find themselves in similar situations, there is no better time to start than today!

Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to guide you to a healthier lifestyle, inside and out. 

Dr. Arthur Constantine - The Do's and Don'ts of Becoming a Healthier You


Start the day with fellowship with God, reading and studying His Word. Do get a daily devotional that emphasizes an aspect of your life that keeps you engaged (a particular author you like, a subject or activity you enjoy, and a devotional that combines this subject and the Scripture). Commit to it every day as God will provide the time spent back to you throughout the day. 


Listen to the lies that say you have no time for the Creator of the World (including you), the One who knows every hair on your head and loves you so much He gave His One and Only Son for your sins. 


Take time to prepare to eat healthy daily starting with a good, filling nutritious breakfast every morning and a nutritious meal for lunch, making every attempt to bring from home a meal you know the nutritional value with items you make each day or preferably parts of leftover dinners from the previous night(s) meals. This is also much less expensive (and quicker) than any option you would have to purchase from the available establishments around your work. 


Skip breakfast for any reason. Do not be unprepared for lunch, as you will be spending considerably more for your food, have to wait in line to be served taking up valuable time toward your goal of getting home with time left for exercise. You will also absorb the cost (doctor/hospital visits, more medications, etc) of poor health as a result of boxed, bagged, or fast foods. You will experience decreased efficiency from not executing your best decisions, which results from improperly fueling your body and brain (resulting in more time drained from your day).


Make time for exercise. When you do not make time to develop good habits, they are not likely to be sustainable, becoming second nature. You must be intentional and actively develop good exercise habits.  Plan ahead--bring the gear you will need for that evening of exercise with you to work in order to go straight to the fitness center or YMCA after work without having the unnecessary stop at home (which will likely stop the plan of exercise). Have your gear ready and accessible at home if you are going to go outside to jog/walk/etc so there will be fewer impediments. If you enjoy morning exercise, plan ahead by getting to bed earlier and do not compromise daily devotional--commit to a time when you will achieve 100 percent success with this very important action. 


Start the day without a plan for exercise, both for the morning and for the evening. What type of exercise, where, and how. Don't leave home without the proper clothes, shoes, etc so you can go straight to the action, which will save time and help you avoid making the unnecessary detour home, where the recliner awaits. 


Stay well-hydrated throughout the day. We must consume 1 oz of water for half of our weight in pounds (be reasonable if you are overweight as I don't want you to drown), and more if we are exercising or exercising outside on a high heat/humidity day.  Get in the practice of starting early with 2 bottles of water in the morning to get your organs hydrated, and one bottle 30 minutes before each meal to help with digestion. 


Drink water too late in the day. This is ineffective for staying well hydrated as not being able to get in enough during the day causes organs to decrease their efficiency, ultimately leading to more fatigue.  If it becomes too late in the day and you try to suddenly make up for not drinking enough water, evening especially, you will cause yourself to have a restless night sleep. I’m sure we’ve all been there. 


Get plenty of sleep (one struggle I find particularly hard to overcome). Turn off all devices well before bed time, take a couple of relaxing deep breaths, start thanking God for all the blessings in your life, and minimize reliving the stresses of the day. The day is now over, so there is nothing to be
done about it at this time. If needed, play music that comforts your heart at a low volume as you drift off to sleep. 


Try to cram in much stressful work or projects before bed- they will follow you to your comfort zone, keeping you awake. Do not over stimulate your brain and heart with TV/loud music/computer/video games. Instead, find time to wind down and ready your mind for “pause” mode. Do not deprive your body of necessary restorative sleep. A tired mind and body—especially one that needs an afternoon “catnap”—is an inefficient way to spend your workday. 

Anxiety and the Heart

As you let go of your anxieties and expectations, hope miraculously manifests and helps you to trust God for your tomorrows.

God always delivers His promises. God’s faithfulness has been shown in all circumstances, but perhaps not at the time I expected it. The important thing to remember is that God is always faithful.

What is required of us is to stand firm in faith as we wait on His timing.

Anxiety and the Heart by Arthur Constantine

As a cardiologist, I have witnessed many instances of His faithfulness. From the “mundane” continued good health after an initial heart attack and stent to the “spectacular” healing of one of my patients from cancer, His faithfulness is always amazing.

My patient, Linda, was convinced she had heart disease since our introduction in my office over 20 years ago. Every annual visit or frequent unscheduled “urgent” visit was always the same. The results of her tests revealed no issue with her physical heart.  

Everyone could see the worry in her eyes; the office nurse, receptionist, the EKG technician could all see it. Even other patients in the waiting room knew her symptoms! However, no matter the evidence that her heart was strong and healthy, Linda always left unsatisfied.

There was no convincing Linda that her physical heart was not the problem. She was physically experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath, palpitations, a rapid heartbeat and a slow heartbeat which gave her the feeling that she was going to pass out. Nothing made anatomical sense. Early on, I would try unsuccessfully to convince Linda she was OK, yet, I left our appointments as unsatisfied as she was. Frustrated that I could not heal her, I felt discussing God’s truth with her would be best. Visit after visit, asking how she was doing only focused on what was not true. My job was much more rewarding as I encouraged her by focusing on God’s truth. Each appointment, I reminded Linda that God loved her until the next visit for more of the same.

One morning, my Bible reading focused on hope and faith in Hebrews 6:13-20. Later that day, I saw Linda in the office. She told me that two months earlier she went through a major surgical procedure to treat – not cure – a diagnosis of liver cancer. One would think all attention and efforts would now be focused on recovery from cancer, but remarkably, Linda’s heart remained to be her concern! I encouraged her to place all her prayer and effort on healing from this very serious diagnosis that left Linda’s other doctors with no hope of cure.

Over the next three years, Linda would look better physically, but there was something more than just her physical appearance. One visit, three years after the cancer surgery, I was amazed to come into the office to see Linda a different person. For the first time in 22 years, I saw peace in her eyes and joy in her heart. Physically, she had improved, but spiritually and emotionally, this was not the same person.

As we spoke, she even sounded different. I was instinctively led to hug her and tell her how wonderful she looked and for the first time, I didn’t have to convince her of it! As I apologized for keeping her waiting longer than usual, it took me by surprise to hear Linda say, “You are worth waiting for.” Linda went on to share an incredible experience she had while in the waiting room. As she waited for our appointment, Linda looked across at an elderly woman waiting to see her doctor. Linda felt the woman needed someone to talk to, so she rose from her chair and walked over to sit next to the woman. Linda shared that she felt God wanted her to speak with the woman as it looked like she needed comforting. Although I was somewhat perplexed to hear this come from Linda, I could see Linda truly enjoyed sharing her heart with this patient. It was how wonderful it was to see Linda’s heart so healed that she was now able to give of herself to help someone else’s heart! As I told Linda this, she began to cry. This time, I knew they were tears of joy and not tears of fear.

Linda confessed that over the last 22 years, she needed to come in to see me because at least for the moment, it would uplift her heart to hear how much God loved her and that all would be OK. Now, with what looked like a cure from a disease thought to be unresponsive to chemotherapy, Linda could see and feel in her heart how much God truly loved her. Before she heard it, but now she believed it.

God is faithful and His grace is always enough for all of us, all the time!

The Future Belongs To Those Who Believe

Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  I believe women are inspirational and key figures in helping all of us live out our dreams; ultimately impacting our hearts in a special and unique way. That is why I want to join in and celebrate Women’s History Month with all of you.

There are so many inspirational women that have played an important role in furthering our understanding of the heart and the important role that it plays for all of us. From medical advances to incredible fitness accomplishments, women have motivated us to stand up and make a difference in our hearts and the hearts of others.

Like many of you, I have amazing women in my life that have impacted hearts and history. For starters, my wife, Mary, has inspired me and motivated me to believe in and pursue my dreams. There is no crazy or insane idea of mine that she won’t encourage and cheer on. In fact, without her, It’s Always the Heart wouldn’t be able to reach out and teach so many people about the importance of heart health! Mary Catherine Constantine is one who believes in the beauty of her dreams and the dreams of others, and because of that, she has impacted my heart and the hearts of countless others! She is the most inspiring woman that I know.

Who is the most inspiring woman in your life?

Who is the most inspiring woman in your life? How has she impacted your heart and your history? What has she done for you? I want to challenge you to take this opportunity to make sure she knows how inspirational she is. Write her a letter. Shoot her a text or even tag her in this post. Remind her of how amazing, unique, and important she really is.

And, as we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month, make sure to sign up for our newsletter so you can continue to be inspired and motivated by the amazing women that have made a difference in, what I believe is the most important thing in our lives, our hearts!


From the Heart,

Arthur E. Constantine, M.D.


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