Educate Your Heart

Educate Your Heart
By: Nastassja Swift

A healthy heart is extremely important to me and is something I take seriously because of my Grandpa Willie. My brother and I, and many of our other cousins, used to spend every summer with our grandparents in Charleston, South Carolina. I remember sitting at my grandma’s small round wooden kitchen table one summer, and as she cooked super for that night, my grandpa sat across from me, while we both waited for her to finish up. I was always the grandchild that enjoyed watching her cook and listen to the jokes my grandpa told. Once dinner was finished, the kids ate in the dining room while the adults were in the kitchen; however I always sat close enough to hear the chatter going on in the other room. I remember hearing my mom fuss at my grandpa for all the salt and hot sauce he would drown his dinner in. As a child, I didn’t quite understand why salt was so bad, or too much for that matter. After dinner my grandpa would go sit out back in their huge backyard and smoke his ‘after-dinner cigarette’ as he called it. I wasn’t always aware of all the choices my grandpa made, or the severity of those choices, but I did wonder why my parents nagged him about certain things that he did.

My grandpa started smoking at age 12, drank alcohol heavily more than the average drinker, and ate the kind of food that he wanted to eat, salt, fat and all. Due to some of his bad habits, my grandfather had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and lung cancer, which are just a few of the many health complications he endured. Additionally, my grandpa had a pretty severe stroke. Unfortunately, he experienced his stroke home alone without anyone there to help him and when someone did finally arrive, he was found at the bottom of the steps, and was then hospitalized. Though the stroke wasn’t his cause of death, it lead to further health problems and took an emotional toll on my family.

My grandpa didn’t do a very good job of taking care of his self or his heart over the years, and three years ago his pile of health problems took his life. Because of his choices, I am more aware of the possibilities of not properly caring for one’s heart. Knowing my grandfather’s lifestyle growing up and how it affected his health, my family and I realize that isn’t the road we want to take. My grandpa’s unhealthy choices have shaped the way I live, why I choose to never try cigarettes or drink, or eat unhealthy foods on a daily basis. His constant health complications and hospital visits, due to how he lived his life, worried all that were close to him, and that’s not something I would ever want to put my family through.

Not only am I concerned about my health, but the health of my loved ones. I am always encouraging my mom to exercise with me, or reminding my stepdad to cut back on the amount of sugar he puts in the tea, or nagging my brother about the amount of condiments he smothers on his food. My mom, makes a salad or some kind of vegetable every night for dinner, and keeps plenty of water and fruit in the house; we all help one another to maintain a healthy heart. I would never want any of my family members to endure the pain and trauma my grandfather experienced. Because of that, I continue to maintain an active and healthy life style for myself and encourage my family to do the same.

I will never be able to sit around my grandmother’s wooden kitchen table, while she cooks and listen to my grandfather tell jokes. Because of this memory, I take the specific precautions to prevent myself from going through the heart and health problems I witnessed from my grandpa.