Everyone deserves a little time off to enjoy life, and indulge a little. While you’re at it, who wouldn’t like to have a little extra vacation time? The funny thing is that sitting back, enjoying a big meal, or an extra drink, might feel relaxing, but to the body, it’s all hard work. In fact, some parts of the body never get a vacation, no days off, not even enough time to take a nap, especially your heart. Whether you’re awake or sleeping, every single moment, your heart is hard at work pumping away.

On average, the heart pumps over 100,000 times per day. With each pump, a fresh surge of blood travels down a network of vessels 60,000 miles long. Your body’s own superhighway. Along its way, blood picks up oxygen from your lungs, and off it goes to nourish your liver, kidneys, brain and more.

With such a big job to do, your heart needs to be in tiptop shape. But these days, too much eating and too little moving, has the heart all stressed out. Just look at your blood vessels, where heart health starts. When they’re healthy and clear, blood flows easily through them. But when they’re clogged, blood gets stuck like a big traffic jam. Your heart has to pump harder and harder just to push it all out.

What’s causing all this congestion? Well, it’s often the burgers, fries, pizza and donuts, or other high-fat, high-cholesterol foods. Fat and cholesterol form sticky clumps called plaque that builds up in your arteries. And your blood vessels become narrow and rigid, which is called atherosclerosis.

When you gain weight, smoke, or sit too much, atherosclerosis goes into overdrive. And that’s not good for your blood vessels or your heart. This backup causes another problem, high blood pressure, meaning your heart has to work harder and harder just to push the same amount of blood around. With all this added resistance, the heart might try to get bigger in order to push harder.

Although you might want to build muscle in other parts of the body, you don’t want the muscles in the heart to thicken. When the walls of the heart get too thick, it just gets in the way, making the heart a less efficient blood-pumping machine. And after a while, pushing and pumping harder and harder, your heart will eventually get tired, sending out less of the oxygen-rich blood your body needs. And that means trouble for your organs.

Look how slowly that blood is flowing, and what is that? A clot has formed in the pooling blood. Now it’s moving. If it travels to a blood vessel that feeds the heart, it could get stuck, and cut off the blood supply. Without oxygen, part of the heart muscle could die. That’s a heart attack, and it’s serious.

Look, the clot is headed for the brain. If it gets stuck in a blood vessel there, it robs brain tissue of the oxygen needed to think and walk and talk, and do just about everything else. That’s called a stroke, and it’s also big trouble.

These stories are scary, no doubt, but you have the power to prevent them. All you have to do is show your heart a little love, and it will keep ticking away for years to come. Here’s how you do it. Get moving. Walk, ride a bike, or take a dance class. Keep your heart pumping for at least 30 minutes, five days a week, with aerobic exercise.

When you exercise, you trim fat, and the heart becomes more efficient. Snuff out those cigarettes. Every cigarette puff fills your lungs with a cloud of toxic chemicals. Those toxins wind their way into your blood, damaging your heart and its delicate vessels. Once you stop smoking, the clouds clear. In just one year, your heart disease risk is cut in half.

Eat a rainbow of colors. Fill your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables, green, orange, red and yellow. They’re filled with heart healthy nutrients. Stay far away from the villains on the shelves, the boxes and bags of sugary, salty, high-calorie processed foods that weigh you down and harm your heart.

Watch that scale. If you have to count too high, you’re putting strain on your heart. Keep your weight in a healthy range for your height. And learn your numbers, the ones that count. Your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. If they’re too high, ask your doctor how to bring them back down.

Make a commitment to take care of your health, and your heart is sure to thank you.

Directed by: Kal Nyer
Copywriter: Stephanie Watson
Animator: Bradley Campbell