In a sea of political conversations and emotions, a Facebook friend posted about the loss of her friend after heart surgery. Not someone I know. And I didn’t know all the details. But she was a young woman, a mother of a young child and a friend of my friend. It broke through the election haze, shedding a little light on life and the value of time and how we spend it. It was also a serious reminder about heart health at every age. While in our family we run a risk for breast cancer, we aren’t focused on heart ailments. If I’m being honest, for a long time, heart issues seemed completely removed from my life as a runner and balanced diet eater.
It was during a physical at my last job that I realized I was on a dangerous path. I drove a stressful, brutally long drive to and from work, and based my life around the 2 to 3 hours I’d spend each day on the road. My test results were fantastic—except for high blood pressure. Like concerningly high blood pressure. That first day, I thought it was maybe because I’d fasted and had coffee. But for the next couple years, my tests kept coming back with that same high number. I was warned that consistently high blood pressure may not have symptoms for years but can be damaging to my blood vessels and heart, and increase my risk of heart attack and stroke. Silently it was working against me. And of course, according to the statistics, I’m not alone. Did you know…
- An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.
- Cardiovascular diseases and stroke cause 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds.90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke.
- Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
- 80% of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education.
I’ve since changed a lot of stress factors in my life—at least the ones I can control—but I’m more aware than ever before just what impact our lifestyles can have. Even if you go to the gym every day, eat perfectly, follow all the guides of healthy living.
So as we approach a busy, festive and possibly chaotic holiday season, it’s a good time to remember to take a deep breath, focus on what’s important, know that what can’t be done today can be done tomorrow and just enjoy this time. It’s precious for so many reasons. And your heart is counting on you to take care of it so it can continue taking care of you.