Wake Up Call
We all hear the statistics. It is fairly common knowledge that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States [Heart Disease: Heart Disease Facts and Statistics]. Still no one ever expects it to affect his or her own life. That is how I was. I never thought that I would get a call while I was in my middle school math class that my grandmother was ill. My mother proceeded to tell me how my grandma was being taken to a special heart hospital over 30 miles away from our little town. I was in shock. I was told later, as, “There’s no need to worry,” was repeated to me over and over again, that she had had multiple strokes along the right side of her brain. The cause was a previously unknown birth defect. There was a small hole in the main valve to her heart.
After surgery and two nursing homes, my grandmother was finally able to come home. Though she wasn’t able to work any longer, she did in many ways continue her life just as it was before. She cleaned, cooked, and ran errands. Our whole family was able to breathe easy once more. There were some changes in our family though, and the majority of them weren’t for my grandmother. My grandpa began to go to the doctor a little more regularly. My mom talked to the doctor often about her blood pressure, which has been high for a while, and was careful to take her vitamins daily. She also began to make sure my sister, my brother, and I all had regularly scheduled doctor appointments.
Our family was suddenly jerked into the scary reality that heart disease was a possibility, not just something sad that happened to other people. This single event, though extremely traumatizing to us, is sadly more common than we knew. My grandmother is still under careful watch. She has to watch the amount of sodium she consumes as well as how much liquid she drinks. These things are not just part of a diet fad that will pass; this is life or death for her.
Because of this event, I have become much more health conscious, especially when it comes to matters concerning my heart. I do not smoke, and I stay away from people when they are smoking as a general rule. Smoking makes you two to four times more likely to acquire heart disease [Smoking and Tobacco Use: Heart Disease and Stroke]. I learned from my mother who has smoked since she was in middle school how awful the habit truly is when she was hospitalized with chest pains and trouble breathing. The doctors believed her smoking was the main cause. I also watch my sodium intake. I try to season my food with other ingredients. This is not the only thing I have cut back on. I also have lowered the amount of red meat and fast food I eat. The hope is that this will lower the levels of fat in my body and help keep my cholesterol at a healthy level. I work out on a regular basis.
I have taken it upon myself, more than anything, to learn from others’ mistakes. I know I am not perfect by any means, but this makes it much easier to live with a healthy heart, body, and mind. I live to the best of my abilities. As the saying goes, “You can’t truly love others until you learn to love yourself.” Taking care of my heart and body is my way of loving me.
“Heart Disease: Heart Disease Facts and Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Oct. 2012. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.
“Smoking & Tobacco Use: Heart Disease and Stroke.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 09 Dec. 2012.