Earlier this year my father, the man who got me into running and leading a healthy lifestyle, underwent a quadruple bypass. It was a traumatic experience for him and the rest of the family. The surgeon told my father, who is now recovering physically, mentally and emotionally, that what saved him was that at 76 he was in very good shape. His heart trouble was the result of atherosclerosis, and now, aside from staying active and following a strict diet, he needs to take certain medication for the rest of his life.
There are other more pervasive forms of coronary conditions, like heart failure (HF), which is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood around the body. More than 50 percent of HF patients will die within five years after being diagnosed.
This month, American Heart Association is launching Rise Above Heart Failure, an awareness initiative nationally supported by Novartis—that aims to change the course of HF in America through awareness, education and support, and I am excited to be a part of it. I’m of the mindset that although we all have are certain health conditions we cannot prevent due to a genetic predisposition, it is our responsibility to be in the best possible shape to stay healthy. It is our duty to those who love us, our spouses, our parents, our children—and of course, ourselves!
How I make exercise an integral part of my life
My husband likes to poke fun at my story about having started running with my dad when I was 12. Perhaps I tell it too many times. But the truth is that if practicing sports and having a healthy lifestyle becomes a habit from a young age, you are more likely to stick with it for life. The same way that I grew up watching my elders exercise and eat well, my children, 14, 12 and 11 see me take care of myself. One evening I overheard my youngest telling her sister: “Wow, have you seen how mommy can touch her toes?” while bending over trying to reach her own.
The form of exercise I practice has evolved over the years: running, dancing, swimming, walking, yoga … The bottom line has always been that physical activity is an essential part of my life. And now that I’m a mom, even more so. I want to be around for my children for as long as possible, so I will continue to do my best to stay healthy for them.
Now that I’m in my 50’s and taking HRT for insufferable menopausal symptoms, I’m even more mindful of what I put into my body. I’ve always eaten a healthy diet and felt pretty fit, but since I took up Vinyasa yoga, I’m craving more fruits and veggies than before. I may even try juicing!
I am very grateful that at 52 I can go for a run and feel rejuvenated, that I can dance the night away, play a game of catch with the kids or walk the dog without feeling winded. Anyone can do a little something to improve their health and raise their level of fitness. It could be something as simple as walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Eating one piece of fruit in the morning, if your doctor says it’s ok for you to do so. Or having business meetings while taking a leisurely stroll instead of over lunch.
Join Rise Above Heart Failure with American Heart Association
I urge you to learn more about heart failure, as it has a great impact on our population.
Some facts you should be aware of:
HF will impact one in five Americans in their lifetime
HF is implicated in one out of every nine deaths in America
HF sends more older Americans to the hospital than any other condition
HF is consuming national healthcare dollars at an increasingly alarming rate
I encourage you to share your experience and access tools and resources that can help you or a loved one rise above heart failure by incorporating a small health change in your life.
Simple ways you can create awareness
Share in the comments below a personal anecdote about the small steps your or a loved one are taking to rise above HF.
Donate a social media share on Thunderclap. It’s really easy and fun. Click here and follow the prompts. On October 13 all of our tweets and Facebook shares will be released at once creating one big wave of excitement and awareness.
Share a “Heartie” like the ones I’ve shared on this post. Share them on social media with the hashtag #RiseAboveHF and #MyChangeOfHeart and tagging five friends to encourage them to join the movement.
Participate in one of AHA’s 2015 Heart Walks. AHA will provide HF education to thousands of attendees at its walks in Morris County, N.J., Seattle, San Antonio, Chattanooga, Tenn. and Miami.
Watch this video that provides plenty of useful information:
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