Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It Can Happen to You

James Gandolfini died of a heart attack at age 51.  Sadly, this is all too ordinary.  You know why it is ordinary?  It is ordinary because no one really thinks they will have a heart attack. The fact is that if you live in the USA and eat a normal western diet, you are at risk.  If you go to restaurants, the portion sizes are much too large filled with way too much artery clogging fat and a huge amount of salt.  Most families eat out more than they do at home.  Hey, I get it.  I am busy and totally domestically challenged.  All I am saying is that you might want to reconsider.

Do you know what numbers you should know?  Click here to find out what numbers you should know.  Go ahead, I'll wait.  So, you've clicked and now you have learned from the American Heart Association what numbers are important.  I hear you saying, my numbers aren't bad, I'm not at risk.  Are you sure?  My blood pressure was 110/70 and my total cholesterol was 134 and I had a massive heart attack.  So tell me now that you aren't at risk if your numbers are good. You exercise so you aren't at risk?  Well, meet Jen at My Life in Red.  She is a distance runner and suffered a heart attack. You don't have any family history of heart disease so you aren't at risk?  Neither did I and have I mentioned that I suffered a massive heart attack?

You've been to the doctor and he or she has told you you need to lose weight but you don't listen because you don't have any other risk factors so how bad could extra weight be by itself?  Well, the American Medical Association has classified obesity as a disease.  Do I agree with that?  No, but I'm not a doctor.  I think it is an epidemic of bad decisions.  Before you start throwing stones at my bluntness, I am medically classified as obese.  I am this way because of a culmination of bad decisions in my 44 years.  Too much sugar, too much fat and nacho cheese as a primary food group. Admittedly mostly because my kitchen hates me and my smoke detectors serve as my oven timer most days.  Does that mean I am diseased?  Well, quite honestly yes but not with obesity, with heart disease as a result of my bad decisions. I think calling it a disease gives people a free pass to think that this is a disease so they don't need to do anything to address it. It is a pass to continue to  live a western lifestyle that thrives on indulgence.  So, if your doctor tells you that you need to lose weight, are you so arrogant as to think that it really won't cause you any problems if you don't? It leads to heart disease, stroke and cancer.  I struggle with mine daily, so I'm not saying it isn't a struggle.  What I am saying is that you should should take the struggle seriously.

I read all the sentiments from folks as they learned of the death of James Gandolfini.  All I could think is the one take away I wish that everyone would take away from this is not oh, how sad. I wish what everyone would take away is that if it can happen to him, it can happen to everyone.  If it can happen to me it can happen to you.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Falling Off the Vegan Wagon

I have fallen off the vegan wagon.  This takes me back far in the other direction of finding the skinny bitch.  I keep saying I will get back to it and then I find a reason not to.  Last week, I went to Cincinnati on business, the week before, who knows!  I have found excuse after excuse not to get back to it.

In reality, I did not go vegan for weight loss.  I went vegan because I knew it was the healthiest choice for someone that is post STEMI.  I went vegan for all of the right reasons.  The thing about being vegan is that it requires a lot of planning.  I am so not a planner.  I basically go through life flying by the seat of my pants.  While I am almost always having a good time, that leaves very little time for planning and structure. 

In the beginning, it was so frightening to have had such a massive heart attack.  Less than 20% of women survive a STEMI and of those that do, 42% die within the first year.  That was nerve racking and scary. It scared structure into me:).  As I've gotten farther away, it is less scary.

I read this article titled Being Vegan:  A Gift to My Children on Father's Day.  It so hit home that the reason for going vegan was so that I get to be around for my kids and my granddaughter.  I get to see them grow up and become fabulous young adults.  I get to grow old with my husband.  I only get to do this if I get back to taking the kind of care of myself that I know I need to. 

Tomorrow is the day.  Here's to your health and mine on this Father's Day!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

I Wouldn't Give It Back

I have had a great couple of weeks.  I have done some things I wouldn't have done if I hadn't had a heart attack.  So, this gets me thinking.  I have spent a fair amount of time over the last 20 months wondering why this happened to me.  Admittedly the first bit of wondering post heart attack was spent in a self-pity  but once I emerged from the Post Heart Attack Stun, the wondering is not spent in self-pity but in more of a state of amazement.

I have met some amazing people along my journey.  I have met amazing people through this blog and through the Facebook page.  I get great messages sent to me and I love hearing all of your amazing stories.  Each story is so unique yet eerily similar.  In the end, some have survived, and some have not.  There is very little other than luck that separates those that survive from those who don't.

I have met women who have not wanted to tell their stories but somehow seem comfortable sharing it with me.  Being a woman who has survived a heart attack puts me in a unique kinship with these women that I meet.  Perhaps the fact that I am online makes it "safe" to share their stories.  This makes me incredibly happy because the intent of the blog now is to share my story and my successes and failures in getting healthy in the hopes that it motivates others to learn abut heart disease. In the beginning though, I figured the blog was just so that I could make sense of what being a heart attack survivor meant to me. I am constantly amazed that anyone even finds my blog but they do and they actually read it! I love that sharing my story allows others to feel comfortable sharing theirs.  Even if they never share it with another person other than me, there is something totally cathartic about sharing the story.   It is why I do this.

The experience of becoming a Go Red Ambassador for the American Heart Association has been tremendous.  I have already met some amazing women and I am looking forward to getting to know all of their stories.  I have met my friend Julie through the AHA. She bleeds Crimson and Blue so you know we are fast friends!  Rock Chalk!  On June 1, she and I walked the 5K Color Run:

Last night, I had the incredible honor of representing heart disease survivors on the field of the Kansas City Royals.  They donated $10,000 from the proceeds of their event last night, Girls Night Out at The K to the American Heart Association--Kansas City.  We arrived early and volunteered passing out stuff at the gates as women arrived for the event and then went down on the field during the pre-game.  The Royals won and it was Fireworks Friday!!

Meeting these incredible women and all of the experiences that I would not have had otherwise make it worth it.  I would never give back the heart attack or the heart disease.  I would never give it back--ever!  I live life with a much deeper appreciation for the relationships and experiences I have.  I live life reconnecting with people that I haven't seen in many years!  These relationships are very important to me---each and every one of them.  I live life sharing my story and hoping that people pay attention and understand their risk of heart disease.  Not just my female friends, but also my male friends.  Even though I stress that heart disease is the number one killer of women -- 1 in 3, it is the number one killer of all Americans.  So, my male friends are at risk as well.  I know people have been paying attention because I get Facebook messages and emails from friends telling me that they have made changes in their lives or have gone to see their doctors because of my story.  I am so thrilled and honored when they share this with me!  Bring on the role of heart attack survivor as I will embrace it always!

On a totally different closing note---Rock Chalk Jayhawk and congrats to the Outdoor Track and Field National Champion Lady Jayhawks!