Sunday, September 14, 2008

Heart Health

I've been thinking a lot about heart health lately. Yeah, you guessed it. Someone in my family is experiencing some difficulties of the heart. Not the romantic kind, however, the double-bypass-surgery kind.

Because of a strong history of heart disease in my family, my father's family doctor recommended a preventive screening of his heart about a month ago. My grandfather died of congestive heart failure two weeks after he underwent open-heart surgery. He was 86 and probably, the decision to have the surgery was not a good one. He never came home from the hospital. Several of my great uncles have had heart surgery. My Dad will be 72 this month, takes medication for high blood pressure and cholesterol, and a couple of years ago was diagnosed with diabetes. He worked a high stress job for 42 years. And his weight, although not obese, is not ideal.

After the screening and stress test, with all of the numbers plugged into the computer, he came up in the 99th percentile of risk for a heart attack. A couple of weeks later a heart cath revealed that he has severe coronary disease. He is waiting for the call to schedule is surgery, which should be very soon.

All of this has given me pause. Not only because I think of my strong, funny, and stable father as being invincible. I cannot fathom him being any other way, and I don't even want to think about life without him. It's too soon. So I'm glad for the surgery and pray it goes well and that his heart will be healthy once again.

Then there is the other thing--my own heart health. I, too, have inherited this strong family history of heart disease. I'm overweight. I take high blood pressure medication. I get way too little exercise. And my job, well yes, has it's fair share of stress. Not to mention that I really have two jobs, my day job and the writing. Yes, juggling deadlines in both can be stressful.

I'm closing in on 52. My dad has 20 years on me. Of course, plaque doesn't build up in the arteries overnight. It takes time. So the other pause I have taken is this -- what am I doing to keep my heart healthy?

Not much.

And this, is something that I have to fix. Soon. Change habits. Find ways to get rid of the stress. Exercise regularly. Eat right. Lose weight. Restructure my life? Perhaps. I think this is a subject I shall return to often here. And I'll be sure to let you know about my dad's progress.

So, what do you do to keep your heart healthy? I'd love to know how you handle stress, get the exercise in, and make good food choices. Please share.


p.s. After a quick visit to the American Heart Association website, I came across I'm off to take their heart healthy quiz for women. Come on, let's both check it out!

p.p.s So, gee, glad I enjoyed that Monte Carlo steak the other night, huh?
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