Self inflicted heart disease

Feb 2011, I was at BWI waiting to board a plane taking me to Iceland to start my 2-year tour. While hanging out at the airport I called my family to say goodbye. Called my mom, my aunt and then my grandparents. My grandfather tells me that my grandmother is not available to talk because she is at the hospital preparing for quadruple heart bypass surgery. This hit me hard and there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t be there for my family, I had to get on a plane in a few hours. My grandmother had surgery the next day and lived for another 10 years. I didn’t get to see here for about 18 months due to my obligation to the military. Thankfully she made some changes to her lifestyle as did my grandfather who is still puttzing around these days.

Two weeks ago, I found out a buddy of mine had to go in for triple heart bypass surgery. It wasn’t a big surprise considering his lifestyle choices. He openly admits making bad choices and not taking care of himself. He should have been taking good care of himself because he knew his family had a past of heart disease. If that wasn’t enough you would think his wife asking him to make changes would do it or maybe his two daughters and grandkids.  He has since had a successful bypass surgery and has along recovery ahead of him and it sounds like this is what has finally opened his eyes to what he needs to do. Thankfully he did not join the roughly 610,00 people who die of heart disease every year in the United States. The mayo clinic state that the major contributors to heart disease include but are not limited to

1.      Poor diet

       a.      A diet that is high in fat, salt and sugar can contribute

2.      Obesity

       a.      Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors

3.      Physical inactivity

       a.      Lack of exercise is associated with many forms of heart disease

4.      Stress

       a.      Unrelieved stress may damage your arteries

5.      Family history

       a.      Family of heart disease increases your risk

6.      Excessive alcohol use

There are other factors that can contribute to you be coming another statistic to heart disease. If you look at the five contributing factors that I mentioned four of the five are self inflicted. Those four can be controlled and reversed. Over half a million people in the United States should not die due to heart disease.

Obesity and a poor diet go hand in hand. If you are overweight this is the first thing you need to fix. It is such a simple fix. Make better eating choices. don’t grab a pizza and beer at the local pizza place. Instead buy some chicken and vegetables to cook at home. Stopping off at Wendy’s, McDonalds or Burger King for lunch is not a good choice. Make a salad for lunch and take it to work with you. Not only is it healthier but it’s cheaper and trust me you’re going to need that money for your surgery if you don’t make changes. The average cost for bypass surgery is $70,000 dollars. That is on the low end and without any complications.

What does it cost for a monthly gym membership? $40 at the low end and upwards to $200+. Which choice is cheaper? What are the benefits to the gym membership. For one if you consistently workout you’re not only going to be in shape, reduce your risk for heart disease but you’re going to look amazing. Lean muscle mass it what everyone should be looking to have noticeable on their bodies not the ongoing splurging of popcorn and a soda at the movies.

Stress is probably the hardest of the self-induced factors that can lead to heart disease. There are many variables that will account for your high stress levels. What can help mitigate that stress? The obvious is exercise. Exercise is a great stress relief for many people. Sleep will also help reduce stress It allows your body to recover allowing it work at an optimal level. Find a hobby to help with your stress.

               Excessive alcohol use. Over consumption of alcohol has a lot of bad side effects. Can easily ruin the following day, lead to bad decisions, long term use can lead to liver disease and obviously heart disease. Having a drink here and there isn’t horrible but if your beverage of choice with dinner every night has alcohol you are drinking excessively and need to switch to water more frequently with dinner.

Family history is the one thing you can’t change of the five major factors that contribute to heart disease. If your family has a history then you should be doing everything you can to reduce the risk for the other factors by living a healthy lifestyle that includes making that right decisions on what you put into your body. Exercising to keep your lean muscle mass and build up your cardio for a healthy heart. Finding something that helps you relieve your stress.  The fact is that it is easy to be healthy. You make decisions in your life that will contribute to you living a healthy lifestyle.

Reality for most is that heart disease is self-inflicted by poor lifestyle choices. If you relate to any of the five-major contributing factors to heart disease, please start to take the steps to fix it. It is so simple. It will take some time to make lifestyle changes and it will take you being consistent in your task at hand but you need to own the poor choices you have made and own the decision to make the proper changes.  Lastly you might not be afraid to die today or tomorrow but are your loved ones ready to be without you? Your spouse? Your kids? Your grandkids? Mom and dad? Brothers and sisters?