Each morning as parents dropped their kids off at the local elementary school, they would all wave to John as he stood in his front yard with his morning cup of coffee and cigarette. The kids and parents had accepted that as a part of their morning routine. Suddenly one morning John was not there. The kids would ask, “Mom, where is the smoking man?” The parents would respond either this way or that to put their little ones at ease.
The fact was John had suffered a heart attack. Years of smoking, inactivity, and unhealthy eating had finally caught up with him. He spent two weeks in the hospital and several weeks home recovering. Once he decided he was as close to 100% as he would get, he resumed his morning ritual as he had also grown to love waving to the kids and their parents.
“It is estimated that 11.8% of adults suffer some effects on heart health problems annually,” states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A healthy heart can be obtained and maintained by eating healthier, being physically active, and not smoking. As seen in the above illustration, one man’s choices can impact the lives of others.
John is my grandfather. His experience has alerted me to the importance of a healthy heart. It allows me to understand that the way we as individuals treat ourselves, our bodies, and ultimately our heart actually has an impact on our family members. Family will yield themselves and their time in caring for us as we recover as well as we journey through procedures and situations. John’s experience also impacts the community in which we live. The kids who had grown accustomed to John’s presence now begin to ask questions of how and why this incident occurred. Families throughout the community are now faced with the task of educating their little ones on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating properly, and staying active.
One man’s situation had the potential of making a greater impact on other’s in ways not imagined. Personally, it has opened my eyes as well as placed a desire to make changes in my own life. In high school I was an athlete but once I enrolled in college my physical activity decreased dramatically and my eating habits worsened. Late night study sessions deemed trips to fast food restaurants, then much needed sleep. Having my grandfather hospitalized made me realize that I too needed to make changed because there was not age limit on heart problems. Watching my grandfather take multiple medications to make it through the week is eye opening. I have begun working out daily with my best friend and sorority sister, as well as stopped eating after 8pm. Preparing to be a new professional I have to keep in mind that I have a full career ahead of me and I do not want to be plagued by health issues.
I have also encouraged my sorority sisters and other college friends to research hearth problems in their families and to evaluate the unhealthy choices they are making in their lives. A healthy heart is now my focus in life because the heart keeps everything else in order. Our 2013 motto is: E.A.T Right (Educate others. Accept responsibility. Train your body.) As a future student affairs professional, I hope to make an impact on others like John does.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/heart.htm Cdc24/7: Saving Lives. Protecting People.