As the program began this morning, I was shocked to learn that 30% of annual deaths in Calloway County, Kentucky (where I live), are directly attributable to heart disease and stroke. That's a huge number of families affected. I couldn't help but wonder if this county matches or exceeds the national average. I'm guessing this could be higher given the number of thriving fast-food restaurants in town.
Bottom line? You-I-We have all got to start moving more and continue to be active if we care about our hearts and longevity. Events like the HeartWalk are really beneficial for a non-traditional student, like me, and for the entire community. It's so much easier to get excited about walking three miles when you're with a large group. Today's walkers generated a great energy. I loved sharing in it, and those three miles were infinitely easier and more enjoyable than the 2.5 I do on a gym treadmill three times a week.
The morning's unusually cold temperatures forced the event organizers to move the walk inside the MSU Regional Special Events Center (RSEC) on the track, and sort of last minute. This worked out beautifully. Most of us wore extra layers thinking we would be freezing walking across campus, and we were all too happy to peel off a layer or two and bask in the warmth, and enjoy the invigorating music and camaraderie happening inside.
About 330 of us from Murray and surrounding communities were willing to brave the cold and walk today - some for a mile; most for three miles. We did it for ourselves, our loved ones, those we've lost to heart disease and all those surviving it. I walked in honor of my mom, who suffered a stroke five month ago. Seeing her struggle and suffering has me wishing I could have done something, anything to help her avoid this traumatic event. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. No doubt, this has also motivated me to take better care of myself.
As the baby boom generation ages up, the American health care crisis gets worse. Let's face it. Some of our poor choices are to blame here. There's no accusing or excusing. This is how our culture has changed over the past 50 years. It has seen us become an America that is predominantly overweight, out of shape and decidedly un-heart healthy. Corporate greed is not the only villain in the current crisis. Far too many of us are in poor shape, at least in part, due to our more sedentary lifestyles and the consumption of too much high-fat food. We can help one another. (We are all in this together, after all.) I'm convinced that each of us has something to contribute to help in the healing of this country and of our fellow man.
Preventative care is a key factor. This means starting with ourselves, individually. It is strengthened when parents start to set better examples for children. For example, have you had an annual well-care check up this year? Do you know your cholesterol and blood pressure levels? Do you participate in regular aerobic exercise? And, let's not forget that 50 million of us - friends, family and neighbors included - don't have any health insurance at the moment. For those (like me) who can't afford regular doctor visits, there are thousands of free clinics operating in the United States. Murray, KY has one of the very best of them - Angel's Clinic - which serves uninsured working residents and anyone looking for work - for free. To find a free clinic in your area, visit: http://freemedicalcamps.com/
Heart disease, diabetes and childhood obesity are on the increase. It's time for each of us to take control of our health - and our hearts. The best steps to take are so basic: 1) eat a healthy, balanced diet, and 2) get regular exercise. Sounds simple, but we all know it's not. It can be tough. At 50, it's harder than ever for me. But, I keep working at it. I participate as often as possible in these sponsored fitness events because it helps to keep me motivated. The harder it gets, the harder you have to work.
Heart disease is the nation's number one killer. My hat is off to the business and community leaders of Murray and the MSU particpants and organizers of theCalloway County's Start! HeartWalk 2009. Spending time with survivors of heart disease and families who have lost precious members helps make us all more aware. I hope you are motivated to take charge of your heart health (and your family's). Have some fun while you're at it. Walk, run, bike, jog, row, swim, play, hike, climb...whatever ...just do something to keep that heart beating strong!
To make a donation to the Start! HeartWalk or the American Heart Association, copy and paste this URL into your web browser: https://www.kintera.org/faf/donorreg/donorpledge.asp?ievent=301754&supId=189159079&msource=boundlessfun