Caring for Our Hearts and Ourselves
Red is my favorite color. Growing up though, I identified with blue. I decorated my room in all shades of blue. I wore a lot of blue; navy blue tops or skirts, and jeans - lots of blue jeans. But I now believe that it had more to do with my heart than my actual color preference.
You see, I was born a “blue baby”. The medical term is that I was born with Transpositions of the Great Arteries (or TGA for short). It's both a common and fatal heart defect among babies. I’ve gone through Open Heart surgery at 24 hours old and received my very first pacemaker at four months old. Not nearly as exciting as receiving my first kiss but for my parents, it was probably right up there with my first birthday and first steps.
Despite living with a pacemaker and having a congenital heart defect, I don’t consider myself a heart health advocate. In fact, if anything, I’m the poster child of how NOT to live with heart problems. I recently blogged why I’ve been less than proactive in my heart health at The Guilty Parent and a lot of it boils down to how I felt as a kid and a teenager.
So when I say that I am not the best patient that a doctor could hope for, I mean that I spent a lot of time ignoring that I was different. Once I was responsible for making my own cardiologist appointments and getting my prescriptions filled, I became a big slacker.
Bad Heart Health Habits Lead to Difficult Aging
Those bad behaviors have set the stage for not caring for myself the way I should have been. Once I left the comfort of my dad’s house I started on the road of some bad habits. I didn’t watch what I ate (still working on that actually) and exercise was not my friend (but I’m learning that’s to be expected if you were born with my condition), and my energy would wane as fast as the gray hairs would appear (but also a mix of my heart condition and not taking care of myself).
So why am I telling you this?
I’d like to think that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten smarter and have started seeing the error of my young and foolish ways. I've also had to accept the fact that this is me. It's a part of me like my eyes are brown and I have freckles. As I get older, I’m going to pay the price for not being a better, more informed and more proactive heart patient.
The price I am paying isn’t a physical one; yet. But I feel that if I don’t make lifestyle changes now, if I don’t learn and ask questions and not settle for the status quo of what the doctors want and become more vocal and more PROACTIVE, I will pay a physical price later on. Only it won’t be only me who will feel the effects of my poor choices, it will be my husband and the kids.
I’ll be 35, 29 this year and I know I can do better, be smarter than I have been these last twenty-some years.
February is Heart Health Month. It’s also commonly known as “Go Red” month in which women especially get educated about their own heart health.
What I didn’t know until just last week was that February 7 thru the 14th is also CHD (Congenital Heart Defect) Awareness Week.
Seriously. I had no idea there was a week dedicated to congenital heart defect awareness. It seems fitting that it’s part of Heart Health Month and maybe it’s fate that I found it, while I’ve been thinking of how bullheaded I’ve been with my own health and maybe it’s the result of just good research on my part.
Back to why I’m telling you all of you this…
I’m going to assume that a large part of my female readers have HEALTHY HEARTS. You were likely BORN THAT WAY… so why on earth would you not take care of it? My niece and I were dealt crappy hands in the heart department (her with a heart transplant at six years old). We didn’t get many choices but every day that we breathe, we KNOW, no matter if we try to deny it (as in my case) or wear it like a badge of honor (in my niece’s case), WE KNOW that our one priority should be the health of our heart. It beats for us and it beats for our family. My niece doesn’t get to be lazy and not take her anti-rejection medicine… She’s seven. For the rest of her life, she will have a regimen of medicines as long as her arm that will help keep her healthy. I have to stay on top of pacer checks and regular checkups so that when my pacemaker battery starts to fail, I won’t be too tired or sick to take care of my kids (it has happened).
You have the choices with a healthy heart to get screened early, to see a doctor and find out if you’re at risk for heart disease, stroke or a heart attack.
Even if you haven’t been the most proactive about your heart health, you can start now with just three simple steps:
1. Make an appointment to see your doctor.
2. Change your Diet (doesn't even have to be big changes. Substitute water for your normal soda).
3. Start an Exercise Routine.
I may sound hypocritical for preaching to you about taking care of your own heart (do as I say and not as I do maybe?) but would you really want to switch places with me?
None of us will live forever but the care that we put into our hearts NOW will help ensure that the time we do spend here is lived to the fullest and healthiest life possible. I spent far too long thinking of myself and my own feelings about my heart and it's dysfunctions, it's time that we all start thinking about our hearts, as not just "ours".
Our hearts belong to our children too. So why not take care of them?