A History of Heart Disease

Heart disease has become a family affair. My maternal grandmother has undergone three surgeries to unclog arteries. My grandfather, may he rest in peace, suffered from heart disease. In addition, all of my grandmother's seven brothers died from heart disease. But it didn't hit home until 2000. During a weekend trip to a softball tournament, my mother had a heart attack. She didn't realize the symptoms until she was in excruitating pain. My father forced her to go to the hospital.

Heart Attack

Mom and Tracy My mom and I smiling in Wisconsin at Christmas time in 2006.

It seemed unreal to have our supermom in the hospital with "grandma's problem." Little did we know that her heart disease would impact our lives forever.

My mom's doctors explained the circumstances of her heart attack. They developed a diet and exercise program for her, and for us. Our lifestyle had not been "unhealthy." No one in my family was overweight. No major health problems existed. But we weren't being healthy enough. The new plan took butter off our bread. It exchanged fried chicken for grilled chicken. And potatoes for green vegetables. In a matter of days, our lives had changed, and it was only the beginning.

After a period of extremely healthy living, my parent's lifestyle gradually faded into an almost healthy lifestyle. Sunday morning trips to the bakery returned, as well as a few induglences here and there. My mom had another heart attack. And another.

The change occurred again and stayed. Then, my dad had a heart attack in 2005. And my uncle died this summer from a heart attack at 67. These events hit me hard. But the hardest hit occurred in November 2008. A 36-year-old member of my family had a heart attack.

So young? So healthy? So what?

A 20-Something Living a Heart-Healthy Life

With the family history forcing me to stare heart disease in the face, my life doesn't look like a normal 20-something student. I watch my weight more than most. Eat the foods necessary to my health. And make the choices we've talked about throughout this Web site.

I will choose whether to have or not have a heart attack. Heart disease runs in my blood. But my choices determine my fate, just like yours.