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Go Red for Women, Yarn, and Heart Health

If you've been following this year's Fiberuary Challenge on Instagram and Facebook, you know that Ceci tied today's prompt to the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women Day as part of a month-long focus on cardiovascular health. Women are disporportionally affected by heart disease, something my family understands well as my paternal grandmother died when I was 18 months old from a heart attack.

I'll be very honest with you; part of why I decided to resign my position at the university was because I knew that I was under so much stress that it wasn't good for my heart. No one should have to go to work and be angry and frustrated every single day; it isn't healthy. And, when I informed my department and the dean that I was leaving, I did it because teaching and dealing with university politics was affecting my wellbeing.

That isn't to say that I live a stress-free life now. Clearly, the past year has been enormously stressful and difficult. And, anyone who owns their own business will tell you that it surely isn't the rosy picture that book and made-for-tv movies pretend it is. But, there's a marked difference in the stress that you are willing to experience and the stress that you aren't. Plus, I've been able to structure my day so that it always includes some form of stress reduction.

Michael Blaha, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins, warns in the article "Risk Factors for Heart Disease: Don't Underestimate Stress" ( Blaha says that high levels of stress can increase inflammation, which can affect your heart, and lower your "good" cholestrol. It can also negatively impact your sleep, your diet, and your motivation to exercise--all of which affect your cardiovascular health.

If you research fiber craft and heart health, you'll actually find some fantastic data showing that fiber craft does have a significant impact on stress reduction and your physical well being.

A New Zealand study found that 73% of people who knit at least three times a week admitted to having significantly lower levels of stress, greater mental clarity and alacrity, and increased joy. This may be because crafting does release serotonin, the "happiness" hormone, which helps to promote your mental wellbeing. In fact, a study from the Harvard Medical School revealed that knitting can lower your heartrate by 11 beats per minute and that it can lower your blood pressure by putting you in a meditative frame of mind.

We've all been there--that moment in "the zone" of crafting where we've pretty much peaced-out to the rest of the world and are completely absorbed in our fiber and fabric work. Although sometimes we may not feel particularly motivated to pick up our needles, hooks, spindles, or heddles, maybe knowing that a little bit every day will help improve our heart health will convince us to try. We only get one heart; let's been good to it.

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