Heart disease is the number one cause of death in North America: according to the CDC in 2008, 616,000 people died as a result – meaning that 1 in 4 deaths could be attributed to heart disease. The stats surrounding heart health can be staggering, and we are inundated with this type of information everyday.
But what do you really think of when you think of heart disease? Probably an older man? You might picture him overweight? Hair greying and thinning from many stress filled years? Maybe not leading the healthiest lifestyle? Possibly a smoker?
But the truth is I am one of the faces of heart disease and I have been battling my heart condition and my body for the last decade.
I was just 17 when I was diagnosed with my arrhythmia – Long QT Syndrome. And I was just 18 when I was outfitted with my very first pacemaker/defibrillator.
Yep, it’s me and the Oldie-Goldies just kicking it at the cardio clinic. Robot hearts are where it’s at these days. Cyborg powers activate! What?! What?! But I digress. Because while I am very proud to say that I am now a healthy happy 20-something, it was a long road back from the brink.
For me, obviously, a happy healthy heart doesn’t come naturally. It is something I have had to work at. And while I whole-heartedly give an insane amount of credit to my doctors, the advances in medical science, and my whole cardio team – just the medical intervention alone wasn’t enough. I still had a LOT of rough days, especially early on in my diagnosis.
My health definitely improved, but “bad days” were a norm in my world. Those bad days meant I just couldn’t get started. My body was already exhausted from battling my unruly ticker, and I was unable to do much else. I struggled with my energy levels and some days could not even bring myself to venture beyond the comforts of my bed.
And I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve got a lot of living to do! So I couldn’t afford to be spending so much time down and out.
I needed to get going.
So that is how Operation Happy Heart began.
I found myself losing faith in my body’s ability to work for me, instead of against me. I felt myself losing hope with each “bad day” that past. And I felt my resolve and drive being swallowed up by my diagnosis.
My health wasn’t mine anymore. My body and what it could do was ruled by how happy my heart was that day, and I no longer felt like I controlled that.
It was frustrating and absolutely terrifying, but I turned up at my cardiologists door asking for my body back. I wanted my life back. I wanted to be in control of my health again.
So we started slow.
Just eating more vegetables. Skip the all-night parties – which is easier said than done for student away at university.
Trying to make movement part the regular routine – walk more, maybe even try yoga. These were all manageable changes that I gradually incorporated into my day-to-day life, and the change in my body was profound.
I started keeping a running tally of my good days vs. bad. What was different? What was different from one day to the next? What could I do the help to make these bad days fewer and farther between? The solution made itself clear in a hurry once I started to give it some thought.
If I take care of my body, then my body will take care of me.
Krysten blogs at Darwinian Fail Her genetics may have “doomed” her according to Darwin, but she believes fitness is also defined by adaptability, perseverance, and strength. She’s chosen *her* definition over Darwin’s.