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?


Renee DeMarcus said...

Hi Maddie,

Great post.
What do I do to reduce stress in my life? Hmm... well since I did enjoy a nice steak last night, I'd say the diet is lacking. But I do think I am pretty good about incorporating some heart-healthy habits into my life. I try to enjoy everyday and laugh a lot. It may sound silly, but it's important to find the humor in life--including life's stressful situations. I also meditate everyday, if even for a few scattered minutes. Meditation is really just focused, intentional relaxation, not the hippy-mantra-chanting meditation shown in the movies.
Like you, I hope to increase my healthful habits. First on the list is more regular exercise (other than running my mouth incessantly--just not enough calories burned there).

Maddie James said...

Hey Renee! I love to laugh and have fun, too. I have to remember that laughter is a great stress reducer. Life isn't worth living if we can't have fun, huh? I've meditated off and on. This is another I need to put on my list for a regular to-do. Thanks for sharing!


Tamsyn said...

I have a friend whose aunt was recently admitted into a hospital for pacemaker surgery. She is over 80 but has been healthy with no visible signs of heart trouble before so it was a shock to all of them. That's why I never miss my annual check-up!

Unknown said...

I'm guilty of not doing enough for my heart's health, at least not in a while.

From April till the end of June I was doing exercise daily on my Tony Little Gazelle and making small strides to lose weight and feel better. In fact, that's something I'm planning to do this morning. I did push mow quite a bit of our yard last Friday(in place of the Gazelle).

I try not to eat too many greasy foods or foods that are high in cholestrol (bologna and hotdogs). I try to bake chicken more often than I fry it and I try my best not to eat more than one serving of anything.

Most of all, I try to laugh and enjoy life, though sometimes stress is so overwhelming. That's the best time to go on YouTube and look up comedians like John Pinette or cartoons. My kids and my cat give me a lot to laugh about as well. I try to relax and meditate on reducing stress in and around me.

I will keep your dad in my thoughts and prayers, Maddie. Anytime there's health issues in a family, it's a very scary thing. (I have an aunt who has brain cancer, an uncle with rectal cancer and another aunt with lung cancer.)


Maddie James said...

Great ideas, Pollyanna and Taryn. That annual checkup is a must for me, too. I have to find ways to get that 30 minutes a day of exercise into my routine. I think that would help a lot. Laughter...yes, what a great thing! I fear I sometimes let my day job get to me too much. Today I could feel my brain spinning and my book pressure rising. I know that isn't good.

Thanks, Taryn, for keeping my dad in your prayers. I pray also for you family and their health needs.


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