Today is National Wear Red Day. This is a post I originally wrote last February. I thought it would be appropriate to give you an update a year later. You’ll find it at the end of this post.
I’m really not here today. I know it looks like I’m here, because I’ve posted on my blog, but I’m not.
I’m at a hospital in northern Colorado today. It’s not really where I want to be, but someone I love is having heart surgery today and I need to be here because it’s what families do. My sisters and I are here together, waiting on our mother. She’s having one heart valve replaced and another repaired.
It’s a scary thing. It’s something we’ve always known was a possibility. A big possibility. We don’t come from a family with healthy hearts. Apparently, we don’t come from a family with great immune systems either. Strep infections like us–a lot. My mom had rheumatic fever when she was a child. So did her brothers and sisters. Rheumatic fever isn’t good for your heart. It definitely wasn’t good for theirs. It left them all with heart damage. One of her sisters had two heart attacks before she was 30. All of her siblings have had heart attacks, though thankfully, she hasn’t.
So, here it is, the day after Valentine’s Day and we’re waiting for some amazing surgeons to fix Mom’s broken heart.
I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot about heart disease over the last few months. I thought I knew a lot, having grown up with all of this, but I really didn’t.
I learned that one out of every three deaths in this country is caused by heart disease. That’s more than anything else–cancer, AIDS, car accidents–anything. We must be getting better at treating it or fighting it or preventing it, because those numbers are lower than they used to be. But they’re still way too high. The American Heart Association estimates that 81,000,000 Americans have heart disease and this year 1.26 million of us will have a heart attack. That’s a lot. That’s too many.
I also learned that it’s really not fun to have heart disease. You can’t do things you want to do. You tire easily. Simple necessary, everyday tasks such as eating can seem like too much work. You get fussed over and worried about a lot and when you’re an independent and active person, it can all be beyond frustrating.
I can’t change those numbers, but I can change mine. Thankfully, other than heredity, I don’t have a lot of risk factors. My blood pressure is low, I don’t smoke and while I’m not as fit as I’d like to be, I’m not overweight either. The heredity factor definitely skews things. I had strep about a zillion times growing up. Actually, I had chronic strep and felt like I spent most of my childhood taking penicillin. So I know that I need to work even harder to lower my risks.
Thankfully, there’s a website that has a ton of incredibly helpful, useful and even inspirational information. Learn about risk factors, learn how to know if you’re having a heart attack–do you know the signs? Find them here.
There is even more information to help you prevent heart disease by getting healthier. Once I am done with today, I will be making plans to review Go Red for Women’s Healthy Living program and hopefully lower my risk factors (and maybe my waistline) even more.
You’re never too young and you’re never too old to take care of yourself. Go visit Go Red today and share it with every woman you know.
And in the meantime, say a prayer for my mom and the surgeons whom we’ve entrusted with her care.
And go call your own mom and tell her you don’t want her to ever have to have a broken heart.
So it’s been just about a year now. My mom came through her surgery well, though she had to go back in the day after her first surgery to have a pacemaker implanted. I think it’s safe to say she has now gotten payback for all the gray hair we gave her as teenagers. She’s doing much better and more back to our “old” mom. And we are so thankful for the miracles of modern medicine and for skilled surgeons and nurses who gave us our mom back.
Have you had experience with heart disease? Please share your thoughts, questions and comments below.