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Keep your heart in a healthy place

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Everyone knows heart disease is the number one killer and that keeping your heart healthy is a big deal. Too many people, however, think the choices they make when they are young will not have much of an impact. They are very, very wrong.

My best friend in High School was Trish. We had great adventures together. We loved hanging out, watching television, and smoking. I was always in sports, but she did not see the need to break a sweat. Trish's older sister had died from a brain hemorrhage at the age of 22. It was labeled as a freak incident and not anything the family should worry about. Trish thought exercise would hurt more than help.

As time passed, I joined the Navy and our visits became less frequent. I saw Trish in 1998. Her daughter was 9 and her son was 5. She was divorced and had just found a new job. She was still smoking and had put on a few pounds, but I didn't say anything. I loved seeing my friend again. By February 2003, I was preparing to retire from the U.S. Navy, and Trish and I were 38. She was newly remarried and had never been happier. We had been instant messaging once every couple of weeks.

"Hey Trish, nice to see you online again"

"Sorry, this is her husband, was hoping to catch you. I don't know where your phone number is."

"I can't wait to meet you when I come to visit. Trish is so happy now."

"I'm sorry to tell you, Trish had a stroke and didn't make it."

(Strokes are interchangeable with the term, brain hemorrhage)

Risk factors: family history, check; obese, check; smoker, check; sedentary, check: high blood pressure, unknown; high cholesterol, unknown; age 65 or older, no--She was too young. He must be kidding. He wasn't. Needless to say, we were all devastated.

"She took a nap after dinner and never got up again." Simple as that, just never got up again.

According to the Center for Disease Control, heart disease and stroke are, respectively, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States. Many of the risk factors are completely controllable with smoking, cholesterol, high blood pressure, inactivity, and obesity included.

If you have a family history of heart disease, or you have one risk factor or three, (regardless of age) please don't ignore them and sign up for the Heart Smart Class at the Health and Wellness Center.

The HAWC promises to help you understand how to control your risk factors so your heart keeps you going for many more years. There are more adventures, stick around and enjoy them. I know your family and friends would like nothing better than to enjoy them with you.  

For more information, call the HAWC at 377-6662.