Although August is not National Heart Month (February is), I am compelled to write about hearts. My reason? Ethan, one of my grandsons, had open-heart surgery last week. It was the third surgery in his 15 short years of life. Prior to his surgery Ethan asked a physician's assistant in the operating theatre to video his heart as it was beating in his chest. She did! I was amazed that he would think of sharing his heart with the world for all to see. The video that accompanies this blog captures what a beating, human heart looks like. It is incredible!
It is also incredible that Ethan would be inclined to "share" at such a young age on such a personal level. My mind and heart was consumed during his surgery and subsequent recovery. On a clinical level I thought of the statistics from the American Heart Association that we all need to be aware of:
• Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
• Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women's deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
• Only 1 in 5 American women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
On a physical level, the statistics are sobering. After reading them I suggest we each pause and review what we are doing to take care of our own hearts. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) suggests:
• Know your blood pressure. Having uncontrolled blood pressure can result in heart disease. High blood pressure has no symptoms so it's important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
• Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you should be tested for diabetes. Having uncontrolled diabetes raises your chances of heart disease.
• Quit smoking.
• Discuss checking your cholesterol and triglycerides with your healthcare provider.
• Make healthy food choices. Being overweight and obese raises your risk of heart disease.
• Limit alcohol intake to one drink a day.
• Lower your stress level and find healthy ways to cope with stress.
Please share this important information from the CDC with your friends. And, heed this advice personally.
On an emotional and spiritual level we need to care for our hearts as well. Our accumulated "life wisdom" can (and does) touch other hearts. Share what you believe in; your values and what really matters as we travel on this journey called life. Relationships, spirituality and lessons learned from living the years we have lived do matter. Don't be afraid to speak your mind. We have lived long enough to know that life's lessons are valuable and can positively impact others. It doesn't matter that we may have a different opinion than someone else. We've come to know (and accept) that not everyone agrees with us. That's okay. The world is made up of many people, some we agree with and some we don't. It's what makes life interesting. And, it's what makes "the world go round."
I would be remiss in not addressing the issue of protecting our own hearts, emotionally. Take stock of your personal and professional relationships. Which support your happiness and which impede it? Deciding to move on or limit your interaction with people who don't bring anything positive to your life doesn't have to involve confrontation or acrimony -- it means you make the choice to emphasize the people and things that boost your spirits and make you feel good. Write down the names of people who are welcome in your life. I did, and some people from my current personal and professional life were on the list. Some weren't. I need to act on that, and I hope you do the same.
Most importantly, share your heart; Ethan did!