“Heart Health Hits Home”

“Heart Health Hits Home”
By: Mark Harper

How has the importance of heart health impacted you, your family, or your community?
This subject hits our family deeply because we lost our father at an early age of 59 due to health issues that surrounded around his heart. In the declining days my father emphasized two things to me; one was to stay on top of my health and two was, since I will be taking over as the man of the house, make sure I keep the family together. 23 years later I have kept both values that my dad had asked of me.

Our family has gone through many trials and tribulations throughout, as our mother suffered from breast cancer in 1974 and during that procedure of a mastectomy her heart stopped twice, it was determined she had a brain tumor. We are so blessed to still have our mother around today, because the technology back in the 70’s is nowhere close to what it is today. Her most recent setback took place in 2007 as my mother suffered from a stroke. Other than those setbacks my mother is still doing really well at 88 years of age. Another trial that our family had gone through was my sister who had a ruptured aorta in 2011; we came extremely close to losing her. Several people in my immediate family have had weight issues. As our family gets older we all understand the importance of health, the importance becomes more and more prevalent.

My sister’s and myself grew up eating home cooked meals everyday, as my mom was a stay at home mom. My father was in the military so the structure at home was…dinner is at 5pm every night, don’t be late! Our dinner table consisted of meat and potatoes or fish and rice. With a variety of meals in between. If we were to eat at a fast food restaurant that was a huge treat. Those times were few and far in between.

As we got older the dynamics of our eating habits changed drastically. My father retired from the military and my mom wanted to work, so we pretty much fended for ourselves, which was a complete reversal…meals at home were less and fast-food was more frequent. My father’s health started to deteriorate and doctors emphasized to get into healthy habits to possibly extend his life. My father being the stubborn individual he was, refused to change those habits. When you’re young and active as I was, I didn’t really concern myself with living a healthy lifestyle. But now that I am a lot older and have witnessed what my family members have gone through, I now take everything I do, a lot more serious. At 52 years of age, I am still active in sports; I play on three competitive softball teams during the summer and fall, and play basketball during the winter. I have a full scale workout in the weight room from October thru April, and then I slow it down during the summer so it will not interfere with softball. I have a 14 year old daughter who’s a freshman in high school and plays sports, so her eating habits are extremely important as well. Our basic diets consist of chicken, fish, rice, and vegetables. Now that’s not to say we don’t go out and splurge from time to time. We just don’t make it an ongoing habit. One of my hardest habits to break…is my sweet tooth. I am continually working on that part.

But all in all my whole family is doing really well as far as health is concerned, we continue to get our regular check ups, because high blood pressure runs on both sides of our family. We continually check in with each other, and we do a lot of outdoor activities when the whether permits. “A healthy heart starts within, because each of us has a heart within us…how much maintenance we do to keep it healthy, relies on the people, places, and things we do to maintain it.”