Thanks to Hallmark, when most of us think of the month of February we think of that pink commercial juggernaut of a holiday known as ‘Happy Single Awareness Day’…er…ah… I mean Valentine's Day. I joke and kid, but I do realize it is a special time to celebrate that special someone in your life as well as an outward show of the unique bond between two people. For me, personally, the month of February is that as well, but it has another important meaning for me.
I would encourage you to look past the commercialism of Valentine's Day pushed by See’s, FTD, Hallmark and Tiffany’s and take a moment to remember that February is Heart Health Month. Even more specifically, February 5th, National Wear Red Day, has a large impact for me personally. That is the day set aside to raise awareness for women with heart disease, a day that hits home for me in a special way. You see, my Mother is the survivor of more than one heart attack.
Let me take you back to a night and moment in time that changed the course of my life forever. It’s a moment that got me thinking about nature vs. nurture. You know that age-old Psych 101A debate as to whether a person’s development is predisposed in your DNA, ie., nature or if it is influenced by your environment and life experience, ie., nurture. It is an interesting debate, and both sides can be argued quite effectively and well.
So back to that moment…I was in junior high school at the time. It was late at night, well past my bedtime. I can remember lying in bed asleep but having that weird feeling like someone was watching me. I recall sitting up and squinting my bleary eyes toward the door of my bedroom and seeing the silhouette of a woman formed by the hall light behind her. I remember calling out quietly to her, “Mom?” The answer I got both shocked and confused my 12-year-old brain. It was our neighbor and dear family friend of many years from across the street. My knee jerk reply was, “Where is my mom?” Her answer rocked my whole world and set me on a life path that I am still on and have no intention of stopping now. She slowly entered my room as she quietly and gently as she could broke the news to me that my mother had suffered a heart attack and that my father had taken her to the hospital. To this day I can’t even image how hard it would have been for her to tell that kind of news to a 12-year-old half-asleep boy. My young brain was suddenly spinning a million miles an hour trying to comprehend what had just been downloaded into my grey matter. I am old enough that I was raised watching the old TV show ‘Emergency 51’ all through grade school. Some little boys want to grow up to be cops. No way not me! I always wanted to be a firefighter growing up. There were no bigger heroes to me at the time than Gage and DeSoto. So with that in mind and that Hollywood influence in my little impressionable brain you can only imagine the visions in my head of what I thought my poor mother was going through at the hands of a couple of paramedics when I heard that news. I can recall the mix of feelings and emotions washing over me ranging from fear of losing my mother, to fear for the pain she must have been going through at that moment, to trying to be strong for my younger sister. The rest of the night was a blur to be quite honest.
So this brings me back to nature vs nurture. At the time I had no clue what nature vs nurture meant. The one thing I did know and was confused by was that heart attacks happen to middle aged or older, overweight, stressed out, chain smoking MEN. How could this happen to my 110-ish lbs, 30-something year-old mom who didn’t eat any artificial colors or flavors and never smoked in her life? Was it just bad DNA? Had my mom just gotten the fuzzy end of the lollypop when it came to cardiac genes? Then it hit me. I inherit half my physical traits from my mom! Ruh-roh Scooby! I had no clue if I was going to have the same issue later in life, but I was going to do everything in my power to put off as long as possible what I thought could happen to me in my future if we had similar genetic makeup. This one event in time unknowingly swung my life over to the nurture side of the coin as far as this aspect of my life goes. The importance of exercise rang loud and true in my brain. I began to make healthy life choices a trend that has followed me since. I ran cross country in high school, competed in duathlons and triathlons in junior college, joined the Fresno State cycling team in college, raced for another seven years after graduation, rock climbed all over the state for ten years after that and continue to this day to stay active and will be an endurance athlete, dabbling in whatever intrigues me until the day I die if I have any say in it!
Join me and move your thought process and the needle over to the nurture side of the argument! One in four deaths every year are caused by heart disease. This statistic can be changed! Healthy diet and exercise are the key. Our community in general just needs to take control of our health condition and, oh by the way, we just happen to be employed by the biggest health care network in our area so it stands to reason we should be leading by example, in my mind. Let’s make a difference in our community by spreading the word on ways to prevent heart disease and encourage our friends/neighbors to live a heart healthy life. It is not too late!
- Choose a Healthy Eating Plan
- Get Physically Active
- Quit Smoking or don’t start in the first place!
- Regular Well Check Exams
- Know your family history
- Make it a family affair
- Control Stress
- Watch your weight as you get older and metabolism slows
As we stated earlier, the 5th is the day of awareness for women with heart disease. So with that in mind, be aware that the symptoms for women vary a bit from men. I encourage you to enjoy and share this, not only educational video, but highly entertaining as well! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7wmPWTnDbE
Now in case you were wondering, yes, my mom is still alive and kicking. I thank you for your concern if you were wondering about that. She happens to be one of the toughest women I know. She not only survived that heart attack but has survived another smaller cardiac event since that as well as a couple of strokes and beat breast cancer as well.