Friday, February 22, 2013


This afternoon I participated in Blog Your Heart Out 2013 (#BYHO2013) chat on Twitter. Don't ask me how I found it, because I can't remember. But as with all Twitter chats I was intrigued. I quickly found out what it was all about: bringing awareness to heart health for women. So, here's my own personal story and struggle with heart disease.

I guess I always knew that heart disease ran in my family. You know the story, you're at the doctor with your parents and the doc asks who has what disease in your family, which side: maternal or paternal, and if you're like me… you just sat there not caring and waiting to get that gross light stuck in your ear. It wasn't until I went to college that I really started taking control of my own health. Partly because I was forced to, and mostly because I decided I wanted to become a Registered Dietitian. After my first general class on nutrition I decided to get my lipid panel checked, for fun...let me tell you, the results were not fun. Somehow I had high cholesterol? Wait, wait, 18 year old with high LDL and total cholesterol? YES. That's what genes does to you folks!! I quickly reassessed my eating habits and changed the kind of fats I eat and, how frequently I would binge on French fries. It helped a lot and within 1 year I brought my levels back down to a normal range. PHEW. Crisis averted...for me at least.

When I was a dietetic intern in graduate school heart disease hit my family pretty hard. My dad met with his cardiologist and told her about how one time he felt pain in his chest when running. She said that his last stress test was perfect and just to be safe she'd prefer to do a full-on heart catheterization. Since this came from the cardio doc, my dad didn't even question it. The next week he went under anesthesia and had his heart cath. Within an hour after the procedure he was diagnosed with what some people call a "widow maker." A 100% blockage on his right main coronary artery, a 65% blockage of his left anterior descending coronary artery and an 80% blockage of his left main coronary artery...along with a valve that needed to be replaced. HOLY SH*T was the first words that really came to mind. An aggressive course of action was plotted by a remarkable team of surgeons, doctors and nurses. He was going to have open heart surgery the next week (yeah, dad was pretty stressed during the week between diagnosis and surgery. But the doctors insisted it would be fine as long as he didn't go out and try to run a marathon in the meantime). So, finally he had CABGx3 (Coronary artery bypass grafting, times 3) and an aortic valve replacement. I don't think anything can prepare you to see your dad laying in the ICU on a ventilator. That's one of the most vivid memories I have of that time. He was so helpless--not the dad I grew up with. Thankfully he recovered quickly and is doing great now.

Here's the facts: my dad was just your average guy. Not fat, just a little overweight which one would expect when you’re 54. Didn't eat fast food a lot, and took cholesterol meds like he was supposed to. But sometimes you can't outrun genes.

PLEASE get checked for heart disease if you know it runs in your family. Get checked even if you don't know. Take control of your own health and tell your doctor you want a lipid panel done. It's a simple blood draw that can help save your life. Eat healthy, exercise and laugh every day. Fight back against heart disease by being proactive. 

Awareness and taking action are the worst enemies for heart disease. 


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