Manic Monday ~ An Issue of the HEART

February is American Heart Month. And there has been a whole lotta red being worn and displayed! While this month draws attention to healthy hearts, this month also hits home personally to me and my family. This month, February 16th - to be exact, marks the anniversary of my father's passing almost 20 years ago. He passed away from a heart attack. He was just 55. That particular day is still very vivid in my mind.

I am the oldest of 5 children. On that February day I happened to be in Honduras on a mission trip. My younger siblings were in school. Almost an entire day had passed before the mission trip director in the United States could locate me and my mission team so that I could be informed of my father's passing and make arrangements to come home. It wouldn't be possible for me to return home immediately so I huddled in a private sun-lit room for 30 hours processing why my father passed. A heart attack.... How could this be? He was a tall, somewhat slender man. He was an outdoors man, enjoying long walks and fresh air. He was in his prime (I say this as I am approaching 43!). I analyzed his life. And there were a few things that I nodded my head to and excepted as possible good risks factors that were indicators he was high risk. My dad LOVED supporting our activities and sporting events. You could say we had a "sporty" family. My sister and I were involved in multiple sports and my brothers even more. This lifestyle took on concession foods, take out, and quick meals for years. Not to say we didn't have sit-down, home style dinners as a family, but with 5 kids in all kinds of stuff, it was a season in life of go, go, go. So looking back, food choices were probably not the best for us, especially my father. Another risk factor was the fact that his dad (my paternal grandfather) also passed away from heart disease. That would have been the warning sign to take action on striving for a healthy lifestyle and make healthier food choices along with incorporating cardiovascular exercise. Another warning sign was his chronic back pain that had just come on that year. After his death we were told that hypertension can cause lower blood flow to certain areas of the body and one area was the back. Which made perfect sense as he tried all types of therapies and remedies that didn't work and he couldn't pin point a certain time in which he "injured" his back. All in all, this event was shocking and devastating. But, because of his death, I (along with my siblings) have become very conscious with lifestyle choices.

My family has been heavily involved with the American Heart Association for years. In honor of February, Heart Month, and in honor of my dad... the following information is worth reading:

American Heart Month

American Heart Month, a federally designated event, is an ideal time to remind Americans to focus on their hearts and encourage them to get their families, friends and communities involved.

  • The first American Heart Month, which took place in February 1964, was proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson via Proclamation 3566 on December 30, 1963.

  • The Congress, by joint resolution on that date, has requested the President to issue annually a proclamation designating February as American Heart Month.

  • At that time, more than half the deaths in the U.S. were caused by cardiovascular disease.

  • While American Heart Month is a federally designated month in the United States, it’s important to realize that cardiovascular disease knows no borders. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the leading global cause of death with more than 17.9 million deaths each year.

  • That number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030.

  • President Lyndon B. Johnson’s proclamation that first declared February as American Heart Month.

Chances are, we all know someone affected by heart disease and stroke, because about 2,300 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each day, an average of 1 death every 38 seconds. But together we can change that!

The biggest part of living healthy comes down to simply making healthy choices. While you can’t change things like age and family history, the good news is that even modest changes to your diet and lifestyle can improve your heart health and lower your risk by as much as 80 percent.

For more information, please visit The American Heart Association's website at:heart.org.

Have a heart healthy week!

~Rachel Zimmerman

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