A Change of Heart

A Change of Heart
By: Rachele DiQuarto

For as long as I can remember I have had my heart set on becoming a doctor. I have definitely considered several other fields over the years but I always wound up returning my focus to medical school. My only dilemma was that I couldn’t decide what field I wanted to specialize in. I enjoy helping people, making people feel better and I genuinely want to make a difference.

When I was 19 my cousin who I grew up with had a heart attack at 17 years old. Our family was shocked and I can still remember how afraid I was for him. I thought this would make him want to start taking better care of himself, but he didn’t. My cousin is now 24 years old and fortunately he has suffered no additional heart attacks, however he has developed serious heart murmurs. I love my cousin but I can’t understand why he hasn’t made the changes he needs to make in order to live a longer and healthier life. He eats fast food for at least 2 meals a day; he does not work and gets no physical activity. Since his heart attack he has continued to gain weight, he is less active and he seems to have no concern for his health, it’s scary.

Since my cousin had his heart attack he has gained an additional 50 plus pounds. Watching his quality of life decline because of his poor nutritional made me realize that if I really want to help people prevention is where I need to start. Poor nutritional habits can have dire consequences. It makes sense that the best way to be healthy and to protect your heart is to develop good physical and nutritional habits from an early age instead of trying to rid your body of disease once it already exists.

This past semester, fall 2012, I took my first nutrition course. In that class we watched The Weight of the Nation; it was a wake-up call to say the least. In that time I have made several changes to my diet so that I can get healthy. I have lost 15 pounds, increased my activity, quit smoking and I feel great. My father has hypertension and poor cholesterol, my grandmother recently passed away from a heart attack as a result of poor diet and being a smoker for over 50 years. Every day I am afraid that my cousin may not be around much longer. All this is a result of poor nutrition and poor lifestyle choices.

I am part Native American and I work in a Native American community, I see the way poor nutrition directly contributes to heart disease, type II diabetes, and poor quality of life. I am learning more and more the significant effects of nutrition on heart health. I have begun to make changes in my life and I want to help others make healthy changes that will better their lives. I want to make a difference in my community and in our nation as a whole. I am determined to use my education to make a difference in my life, the lives of my family and the lives of those in my community.