As I child, I didn’t understand the concept of death, as an adolescent I thought I was invincible, as a young adult, death was something that happened to grandparents, parents and their friends. But now I’ve come to the point in my life, maybe it’s the final step in growing up, when I suddenly realize it could happen to me.
Why the sudden comprehension of mortality?
Last week, two of my closest friends almost died. One was sitting in my kitchen, drinking wine and catching up on the latest neighborhood gossip, when he remarked he didn’t feel well. A few questions and a blood pressure reading later, we were testing the limits of my car’s performance on route to the local Emergency Department. A few hours and a few tests later, he was in a Medevac helicopter and on his way to emergency cardiac surgery. Thankfully, he’s home now, doing well and embellishing the story of his MASSIVE heart attack, brush with death, and quadruple bypass surgery with each passing day. (Actually it was just a stent, placed under local anesthetic – but let that be our secret, I wouldn’t want to ruin his 15 minutes of fame!)
The other , a fabulous, funny, vibrant woman, suffered a thrombotic stroke and also ended up being hospitalized and having surgery.
Prior to these events, both friends had been generally healthy. They both exercised, they both watched their weight and neither saw these life-changing events coming. Their brush with mortality was the wake-up call they needed, and further lifestyle changes are being implemented as we speak.
It was also the wake-up call I needed. Yesterday I rejoined the gym and resolved to exercise more, eat and drink less and visit my doctor more often. Nearly losing my friends was the inspiration I needed.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; one in every three deaths is from heart disease and stroke, equal to 2,200 deaths per day.
“Heart disease takes the lives of far too many people in this country, depriving their families and communities of someone they love and care for—a father, a mother, a wife, a friend, a neighbor, a spouse. With more than 2 million heart attacks and strokes a year, and 800,000 deaths, just about all of us have been touched by someone who has had heart disease, heart attack, or a stroke.” says Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius.
Recently, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association joined forces with Million Hearts™ to build healthier lives free of cardiovascular disease and stroke. As part of this they have developed a heart attack risk calculator and a life check calculator to help you understand your cardiovascular health and move you closer to your life goals.
In it, heart disease survivors and those who have lost loved ones to heart conditions used cardboard signs to deliver an urgent call to action. Their main messages? Get screened for heart disease and early intervention and prevention pays off.
February is National Heart Month and I for one am taking notice. Are you?