My Heart Beats to its Own Rhythm; Literally
By: Samantha Ball
Heart disease is the most common killer in the United States (Cambell et. al). How can an individual change his or her lifestyle to promote a healthy heart and holistic well being? Many things can be done to help improve heart health; it is simply a matter of people deciding that they want to start taking care of themselves.
Heart health is extremely important to myself and to my family. I have done many things to help improve my heart health even at my young age of 22. My family has a history of heart disease and so I am more likely to have heart difficulty. Things I do for my cardiovascular health include, taking low dose aspirin, refrain from drinking caffeine, changed my diet, practice stress relief techniques, and exercise on a regular basis. Heart hardships have hit me pretty close to home.
Both sides of my family have heart problems. On my mom's side, my grandfather has had two heart surgeries, one which was a triple by-pass, and is healthy currently. He remains on a heart healthy diet, while taking cholesterol medicine. Him and my grandmother have always been active and lived what I consider a relatively healthy lifestyle. They eat low fat diet and try to avoid too much meat products. On my dad's side, my grandmother just had major heart surgery last year. She went through a quadruple bypass and had a value replaced. It is too bad that they didn’t realize “heart disease can be reversed with diet alone” and by consuming a plant based diet, heart disease along with many other diseases can be prevented and treated (Campbell et al). Also, my fathers’ grandfather suffered from atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). My dad himself had extremely high cholesterol, but has successfully treated it with Lipitor and the generic version, Atorvastatin.
Not only has heart health affected my family, but it has affected me personally very recently. When I was in high school I started having strange and awful chest pains. I went to the doctor and he thought it might be allergies, so I was prescribed an inhaler. This seemed to satisfy my ailments for the time being. Then, last year I decided to start running, which is sort of out of character for me since I have always hated the sport. I gradually started on the treadmill and worked my way up to running on a trail outdoors. Eventually I would run a mile and a half three times a week. During this time I had to get up very early in the morning so I had a habit of drinking highly caffeinated drinks. I started having chest pain again. It began as a mild annoyance and eventually it started interfering with my job because it hurt so much. The longevity of the pain also increased, so I was forced to consult my doctor. He did an EKG on me and discovered a slight arrhythmia, which was shocking and scary. My first and resounding thought was, “I am young and healthy, there can’t be anything wrong with my heart.” I had several more tests done, but luckily there was nothing structurally damaged about my heart. I did a lot of research myself about what might be causing this. According to webmd.com, caffeine, excessive exercise, or stress can trigger arrhythmia. Since I was pretty much participating in all of those it seemed like a quick fix. I stopped running and replaced it with yoga and more less strenuous exercises, stopped drinking caffeine, and tried to used my stress relieve methods more often. I quickly recovered and the pain stopped. I do notice there is a direct correlation between the caffeine and the chest pain, even now, when I have some occasionally.
I remain on a moderate exercise routine, and have started an aspirin regiment while sticking to a healthy plant-based diet. I have been a vegetarian for more than three and a half years and I have been a vegan for a year and a half. I made the switch from vegetarian to vegan when I started to learn from a book called the China Study, how negatively affected the heart is by animal protein, especially casein (Campbell et al). It is the strongest carcinogen of our time (Campbell et al). Not only can animal protein cause atherosclerosis, heart disease, and diabetes, it can also directly trigger the development of cancer cells. So, it seems like a pretty good aspect to eliminate from our diets.
All of the health precautions I have taken, help increase my holistic being, but so do many other things. My sweet husband, and my adorable German Shepherd support me at home. My church of sorts, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ames, supports me spiritually. My psychologist and Al-anon (support system for friends and family of alcoholics) sponsor support me psychologically. During the past several years of my life I have learned a lot about myself, the world I live in, and ways that I can live better. My journey of discovery, triggered by the tragedies of my past, have lead me to who I am today. I am proud, smart, curious, eccentric, strong, and even fierce at times, but I would not know any of this unless I was forced to struggle.
"Arrhythmia (Irregular Heartbeats) Symptoms, Types, and Treatment ." WebMD - Better information. Better health.. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Dec. 2012. .
Campbell, T. Colin, and Thomas M. Campbell. The China study: the most comprehensive study of nutrition ever conducted and the startling implications for diet, weight loss and long-term health. Dallas, Tex.: BenBella Books, 2005. Print.