By: Erianne Lewis | Staff Writer
Three years ago, it was a seemingly normal Tuesday morning when I woke up at 6:45 am to get ready for school. As soon as I got out of bed, something felt off. I could not put my finger on it, so I continued about my routine as normal. When I walked out of my bedroom into the hallway, I remember my mom was standing there with tears in her eyes. I am not really sure what exactly was said, because everything after that is kind of blurry.
According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, causing about every one in four deaths. This February marks the 57th American Heart Month, which was enacted by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.
Now you may be wondering, why am I throwing these seemingly random heart health statistics and facts at you. Why should someone young and healthy care about heart health? As with many things, people do not seem to truly understand the gravity of an issue until they are directly affected by it.
For my family, February can be a dreary time, as we anxiously await February 13. For the last 3 years, my family has spent February 13 celebrating the life of my grandmother, Joann W. Guy, or as I and many others called her, “Granny.”
For many days after Granny’s death, it felt like my entire family was in a haze. We all coped with her death in the best way we could. Some cried, some laughed, but everyone reflected on the life she had lived and the memories that she would leave behind. Granny left a little piece of herself with all of us.
Granny died of a heart attack caused by a blood clot that started in her lungs. Her death was so unexpected, and it felt like a rarity. After doing a lot of researching, I quickly realized that it was not. The CDC states that in 2017, about one in every five female deaths was caused by heart disease. A study from the same year found that about 1 in 16 women age 20 and older had coronary heart disease, the most common form of heart disease.
Preventing heart disease should start now, regardless of your age. Managing stress, getting regular exercise and getting enough sleep are things that can be done now that will positively affect your body in the long run. Here is a list of more things that can be done to start protecting your heart.
The American Heart Association has a 21 Days of Gratitude Challenge, to “jump-start some healthy habits,” according to their website. These are simple, daily tasks to keep a “baseline of positivity” regarding your health. I encourage you to complete the daily tasks, even if you don’t post them on social media. Send them to a friend or family member to keep yourself honest. I will be doing the same.
Today, as we have done since 2018, my family will remember the life of my Granny. A woman who in her time on this Earth influenced more people than she will ever truly know. I hope her story and the statistics will urge you to look at heart health differently.
Start taking care of your heart today, so you do not have to worry about it in the future.