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May 1, 2016 will be ten years. Ten years since my father left this mortal coil. Ten years since I’ve heard his voice. Ten years in which my life has seen drastic changes, mostly for the better, that he was never able to see. I would love to tell you that the desire to see and speak to my Dad has faded over time. I would love to say that there aren’t still days where I pick up the phone and dial that old phone number. I would love to say that there aren’t any nights when stress or sadness has taken over that I don’t feel the crushing weight of grief still when I realize that he isn’t there for me to call.
My father was killed by a whole slew of minor health issues. I could name them all, but to be honest, I don’t have it in me. Simply writing that one paragraph above has me feeling more sadness than I have in a long time. Specifically though, my father was killed by one thing spurned on by a lifetime of unhealthy eating and unhealthy habits. One thing that took him away much sooner than he should have…he never saw his 55th birthday.
It amazes me sometimes how those two little words can have such an impact on someone’s life. How destructive though two words really can be. How much hurt and pain they can cause.
I am 33 years old. I weigh more than I ever have. It was two weeks ago that I received a diabetes diagnosis; just like both of my parents have/had. It was two weeks ago that I had a single thought that has stayed with me for these last two weeks:
“I don’t want to be like Dad. I don’t want to die.”
Heart disease is the #1 killer of women. The latest available data (2013), shows that one in four U.S. women died of heart disease. A huge 80% of women ages 40-60 have at least one risk factor for heart disease. I’m not even 35 yet and I have several.
In case you’ve over looked them, the risk factors for heart disease are:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Diabetes and prediabetes
- Being overweight or obese (BMI of 25 or greater)
- Being physically inactive (less than 2.5 hours of physical activity per week)
- Having a family history of early heart disease
- Having a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy
- Unhealthy eating
- Age (55 or older for women)
Yeah, I can see several on there that apply to me. What this means is that statistically, I don’t stand a very good chance of living a long and healthy life if I don’t make the changes that I very much need to. So I’ve spent the last two weeks making those changes.
- I’m eating better. My daily diet consists of heart healthy grains, green leafy vegetables, proteins and other good things that I have deprived my body of for so long.
- I’m sleeping better. Okay, I’m actually “just” sleeping. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I don’t sleep. I would run three or four days with no sleep before. Now? I’ve had a solid eight for the last two weeks.
- I’m not sitting at a desk for 12-16 hours each day. In other words, I’m living life again.
- I’m down 6 lbs so far.
It’s not the end all be all and I’ve got a very long way to go, but you know what?
It’s a start and I’ve never felt better.
February is American Heart Month. The Heart Truth’s #FromTheHeart campaign is raising awareness for heart disease in women. Giving a gift that is #FromTheHeart this month is a fantastic way to make others aware of how devastating heart disease can really be. I’m giving a #FromtheHeart gift to my daughter this month.
She and I will be taking a Mommy/Emma date that involves hiking and other heart healthy exercises. It is never too early for her to start being heart healthy because she too will someday face some of the same risk factors that I do.
The Heart Truth campaign invites you to share a gift from the heart this February too! It can be anything to encourage the women in your life to live a healthy, heart happy life. Gifts can be virtual (like a coupon book filled with heart healthy redemption options) or something as simple as cooking someone a heart healthy dinner.
The Heart Truth website and campaign offers tips and advice for women to help reduce their risk for heart disease as well as how to help others do the same. Be sure to visit to learn more and to follow them on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.
While you’re at it, be sure to tweet what you’re doing to get heart healthy or your advice for others to help raise awareness for heart disease using the hashtag #FromTheHeart.
Heart disease doesn’t have to kill. What will you do to help lower your own risk of heart disease this year?
My Advice to you #FromtheHeart is do not wait to take action. Tomorrow really could be too late.
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