Every year around 150,000 deaths occur due to heart disease and stroke in people younger than 65 (“Million Hearts”). Heart health should be a main priority for people of all ages, not just people generations older than us. In an age where the thought “oh, that can’t possibly happen to me” is all too prevalent, it is difficult to convey serious health risks involved in dangerous behaviors. However, with the startling statistics a simple Google search provides, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the impacts of certain behaviors. In this brief essay, we will focus on the simple tweaks college students can make to their behavior in order to lessen their risk of heart disease. First, we will develop a daily routine that the average college student may adhere to.
Take a moment to imagine the following scenario, involving an average college student named Ann:
Annstayed up late studying for her chemistry exam. After hitting snooze too many times, sherushes around to make it to her first class on time. She grabs a package of Pop-tarts and a soda for breakfast as she scrambles out the door. Between classes she runs over to McDonald’s for a quick lunch.After her classes, Ann’s friends invite her to eat dinner with them before heading to the exam. They go to the dining court, andshe choosesher favorites: mashed potatoes, fried chicken, and a brownie for dessert. Along with her food she grabs another sod. She polishes off the meal, and headsout to smoke a cigarette before leaving for the exam.
Once the exam ends, Ann’s friends talk her into attending a party in order to de-stress a bit from the test. When Ann arrives, she has a great time relaxing, socializing, and enjoying a few drinks. On their way back to the dorm, Ann and her friends decide to order a pizza to split. After it’s gone, everyone heads home to get some sleep.
The next morning, after hitting snooze too many times…
Now that we have developed the life of our average college student, Ann, let’s analyze the behavior and see what may be leading her down a path of heart disease. The following behaviors are listed as heart disease behaviors (“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”):
1. Tobacco Use
2. Poor Diet
3. Physical Inactivity
From this list, we can see that Ann is definitely setting herself up for heart disease!Ann smoked, ate unhealthily, didn’t exercise, is most likely overweight due to her poor eating choices, and drank alcohol. If she continues living this way, she may be one of the unfortunate deaths due to heart disease and stroke at a young age. However, since Ann is young, she still has time to change her behavior and decrease her risk of heart disease.
The first thing Ann needs to do is quit smoking. Smoking has a tremendous amount of negative health impacts, including rising the levels of blood clotting factors, promoting atherosclerosis, raising blood pressure, and more. Plus, second-hand smoke exposure even raises the risk of heart disease in people who do not smoke (“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”). Not only is Ann endangering her heart health every time she lights up a cigarette, but she is also endangering the heart health of those around her.
Next, Ann needs to improve her diet. Having a diet that is high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium can negatively impact Ann’s health by raising cholesterol and blood pressure (“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”). By choosing the quick, convenient, and unhealthy food options, Ann is increasing her likeliness of obtaining a heart disease.
Once Ann is no longer smoking and is consuming a healthy diet, she needs to start exercising. Being physically inactive can lead to obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, diabetes, and more (“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”). These negative health effects can be stopped and reversed by developing an exercise regimen that Ann can fit into her schedule and stick to.
Finally, once Ann isn’t smoking, is eating a well-balanced diet, and has an exercise routine to stick to, she will be more apt to make healthy lifestyle choices, such as not overindulging in alcohol, and other dangerous behaviors.
Now let’s picture the following scenario of a new version of Ann:
Ann has been studying for her chemistry exam for the past week, and is able to get a good night’s sleep the day before the test. She wakes up the next morning refreshed and ready to go. After getting ready, she grabs her water bottle, a banana, and a granola bar for breakfast on her way to class. She also uses the few extra minutes to pack a lunch of a turkey sandwich, carrot sticks, and some strawberry yogurt.
After her classes finish, Ann and her friends go to dinner. Ann selects a salad, grilled chicken, and green beans for dinner. She also has a bowl of fresh fruit for dessert. Once they’ve eaten, Ann and her friends go take their exam.
After finishing, Ann’s friends talk her into going to a party to de-stress. Ann goes to the party for a bit to catch up with friends, and then heads to the gym to attend her favorite spin class before going home to bed.
Every college student possesses a few of the poor qualities the first version of Ann had. If every college student took at least one of their bad habits and made an effort to live a more heart-healthy life, heart disease could decrease drastically. Personally, my bad habit is fast food. Even knowing that it is bad for me, and that I am damaging by body to consume it, it’s often hard to resist. However, in order to perpetuate a trend of heart-health awareness, and to decrease the number of young people dying of heart disease, I resolve to give up this poor health choice. Will you give up yours?
“About Heart Disease & Stroke.” Million Hearts. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Web. 18 Dec 2012. .
“Heart Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. N.p., 16 2009. Web. 18 Dec