Heart Healthy

Heart Healthy
By: Jenny Renz

Heart health is something that has impacted me throughout my life. It is a continuous focus for both my family as well as myself. Several of my most vivid memories involve this very topic, and one of my most beloved family members. This is also something that I will continue to focus on as I prepare for a career focused on both heart health as well as overall wellbeing.

Throughout my life, my father has always been my biggest motivator and role model. He is a strong individual that is heavily involved within the community as he is a police officer, the town’s fire chief, and even head of the ambulance department. He is also my biggest fan, attending all of my volleyball and basketball games. When I was in the third grade, I vividly recall when my family arrived home to police cars in the driveway. My father’s co-workers told us that he had been air lifted to the hospital due to a heart attack. He was only 35. Since that date, I have always feared I may meet these same individuals under similar circumstances.

There are three major components to preventing heart disease; healthy eating, exercise, and genetics. While my father had drastically changed his eating and exercise habits, it was not enough. Genetics plays a huge role in his heart disease. Less than a year after the second heart attack I was on my way to a volleyball game when I received a phone call from my mother with upsetting news. My father was hospitalized again, this time because of multiple obstructions in his heart. He was in need of quadruple bypass surgery. During the day of my father’s surgery he insisted I play in my high school volleyball match. To honor his wishes, I went from the hospital, while he was in surgery, to the game that night.

These fears became reality when I was a junior in high school. At a late night basketball practice I was pulled from the drills to receive news that my father was rushed to the hospital with a second heart attack which he suffered at the age of 45. This was another obstacle that he would have to overcome. This time, he was more motivated than ever to fight heart disease and become healthier for both his family as well as the many members of the community that depended upon and benefited from his services. It is very important to him to always be at every game and concert for my brother and I. Having said this, this second heart attack made him realize if he didn’t improve his everyday practices, the number of games and concerts in his future would be limited.

My father and I have been through a lot, and I cannot picture my life without him. That is why it is crucial for him to be continually conscious of his health and the decisions he makes. This is not only important for him, but for everyone. Living a healthy life and living a healthy lifestyle is something that I have found very interesting over the years and has become something I am going to dedicate my life to. While I am unable to change a person’s genetic disposition for heart disease, I can help improve their health and quality of life through exercise and diet. These two factors are key in helping prevent not only heart disease, but many other diseases as well, including cancer and diabetes.

Exercise helps heart health in many ways. It helps an individual maintain a healthy weight while also strengthening the heart, decreasing blood pressure, relieving stress, and increasing blood circulation. Considering the above, it has been proven that without a proper diet an individual may not have the energy required to exercise at or will see limited benefits from said physical activity. These benefits promote a healthier cardiovascular system, and when adding a well-balanced diet to an individual’s regimen, the benefits are even greater. As my professors often say, diet and exercise go hand in hand.

When looking at a heart healthy diet, its components should consist of the following characteristics: low in sodium, low in fat and cholesterol, high nutrient density and low energy density, as well as high in fiber and fruits and vegetables. This promotes healthy cholesterol levels and a healthy body weight. Eating high nutrient dense food, such as fruits and vegetables, allows an individual to obtain many vitamins and minerals. It also helps to fill the stomach with a lower amount of calories. Doing this only further promotes an individual’s healthy weight