How My Dad's Heart Health Shaped My Future

SYoung Health Guide
  • Those words ran through my head as I stared at my father's body laying like a slab of meat on a post operating gurney at Virginia Hospital Center three years ago this day. He had just undergone an eight hour quadruple heart bypass surgery that had saved his life. My mother and sister were in tears and I was speechless feeling almost like what I was witnessing wasn't really real. All I do remember was hearing those words over and over...


    Two weeks prior to this event, my parents had just returned from one of their yearly three-week trips to Italy. For a couple of weeks before returning home, my father had been feeling very tired and experiencing a feeling of "heaviness" in his arms. He would have to sit down and rest after going up a very brief set of stairs. My mother knew that something wasn't right. She insisted that he call his doctor that same day and sure enough, he was immediately admitted to the hospital after his visit. My father had experienced a "light" cardiac event. To make a long story short, he underwent major surgery within four days after the doctors discovered that the flow of blood to his heart was only at 30 percent. The wonderful doctors and nurses at the hospital took great care of him and he was back home ten days after his surgery.

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    The reason I shared this story is because I think that it is incumbent upon all of us to be vigilant of this potential silent killer. For many years my father didn't pay much attention to the health of his heart worrying more about the potential of cancer (he underwent three separate colonoscopies within six years). In retrospect, he was very lucky that the warning shot had been a light cardiac event and not a major heart attack, which could have easily killed him.


    As many of us enter our 40s it is important to closely monitor blood pressure numbers and to have your cholesterol numbers checked twice a year. A stress test with your doctor is also a great way to tell if your heart is working properly and if there are any hidden problems that need to be addressed immediately. Of course, regular exercise and a balanced diet will help keep a close eye on your weight. In addition the Health Central's Cholesterol network, another Website that I recommend to many of my friends and acquaintances is, where you can find great advice on diet, nutrition, and exercise.


    My father has made great strides and taken his health much more seriously since his surgery three years ago. He exercises more frequently and has been closely watching his weight, although he still falls victim to the lure of McDonalds cheeseburgers and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. For me, the event was just a reminder that continuing on my regimen is extremely important, and it became an added incentive to work even harder in controlling my weight and cholesterol levels. On those days when I've had a long day of work and I am just exhausted and thinking about skipping my workout, I repeat those same words....

Published On: January 21, 2010