Heart Health

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National MonumentI began thinking about this Chi entry several weeks ago while sitting in the Cardiac Critical Care Unit in Albuquerque after my mother-in-law’s unexpected, emergency triple bypass surgery.

This particular weekend I was supposed to be signing my name in the log at the top of another Colorado 14er with my sister-in-law, Tammy, a celebration of her newfound health.  Over the last year, she’s lost nearly 100 pounds, has completely changed her diet and activity level, and to top it off has started working as a flight attendant at 47 years old!  She’s on cloud nine.

But on this day we’re worried. My mother-in-law isn’t taking the normal path of recovery, she’s on a ventilator, and she looks so vulnerable.

Over the course of my mother-in-law’s 17-day stay in the CCU, I talked with a lot of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists, and I read a lot of heart health articles.  I was trying to figure out the best ways to take care of our heart.

One pharmacist told me that people need to be more in charge of their own health, meaning we need to pay attention to our bodies so we’re in tune when something isn’t right.  We are our own best advocates.

A few things we can easily do for ourselves include:

  • Eating healthy
  • Exercising (many reports say to work up a sweat 3-4 times a week for 30-40 minutes)
  • Not smoking
  • Limiting alcohol (a little bit of red wine is said to go a long way toward our heart health)
  • Keeping an eye on blood pressure (known as the silent killer because so many people don’t show signs)
  • Being aware of any changes in overall health, for example any change in level of energy or shortness of breath
  • Getting checked out when you’re not feeling like yourself
  • Finding a doctor who listens
  • Ridding ourselves of stress (for women especially, this is easier said than done)

Today my mother-in-law is home and still slowly recovering, she’s making changes in her diet, and realizing how fragile life can be.

Today I’m getting new blood pressure medicine because I knew something wasn’t right with my old one. I’m advocating for myself, I have a new doctor, and am determined to continue being in charge of my life and my health.

A lot of people are surprised to learn that I have high-blood pressure.  I exercise, I have a healthy diet, and I’m not overweight.  What I do have is a genetic predisposition.   High-blood pressure runs in my family, with most everyone on both sides, an unfortunate destiny.  The good news is that with my lifestyle, it’s now only taking a low dose of medicine to keep me feeling great.

Today my sister-in-law is flying around the country and waiting to reach the summit of her first 14er.  She’s already purchased a mug celebrating her ascent and has purchased gear and appropriate layered clothing.  With her new lease on life, she’s looking forward to doing things she never thought possible.

Today, the Albuquerque hospital is getting new heart patients, some who will make it and some who won’t.

Today, take charge, be fit, be healthy, and have fun with your life.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Need a fun place to hike around? Head to Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument between Santa Fe and Albuquerque for some of the coolest rock formations in the country.

The unique, volcanic Tent Rock structures are what’re left of the original formations from 6 to 7 million years ago and look similar to formations found in the Cappadocia region of Turkey.

Tent Rocks is scenic, cultural, geologic, and an unexpected, hidden, New Mexico gem.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument

Jody - Fit at 54

December 07, 2011 at 2:35 pm

You make such important points! I am so glad your mom is doing better & your SIL did such amazing things! Glad you are writing about this too so people can learn. My cholesterol is higher than someone as fit as I am but has been always BUT my good stuff is high so a good trade-off.. but yes, we all have to listen to our bods & do the best we can… making choices that lead us to a healthier mind, body & soul connection!

Hugs to your mom!

Sarah Knippel

December 07, 2011 at 7:13 pm

Looking forward to hear of your mother- in-laws new life and some adventures you share together! Thanks for this inspirational story!!


December 08, 2011 at 5:59 am

Great article – particularly about the importance of getting to know our own bodies and being our own best advocates. My grandmother died of a heart attack and my mother had bypass surgery. She also had to take cholesterol-lowering medication. I have a genetic tendency to have high LDL cholesterol, but have managed to keep it under control through diet and exercise (have had great success with the advice in the Cholesterol Down book recommended by my doctor). I hope your mother-in-law continues to improve and regain her strength. Thanks for sharing this story – very inspirational. Take care.


December 08, 2011 at 6:47 am

Best wishes to your mother-in-law for a full recovery and congratulations to your sister-in-law for making such incredible progress toward health. And thanks for sharing your health challenge. These are such timely reminders for all of us, as the holiday season to-do list can become overwhelming. I myself finally have all the children off to school after several weeks of rotating illnesses, meaning many missed workouts for me and more stress. Today is my day to start taking care of myself again, and your post reinforces all the reasons to do so!


December 08, 2011 at 8:37 am

SO true…we have to be the ones to take charge of our health! To take care of ourselves…we could prevent so many problems if we did!


December 08, 2011 at 12:14 pm

In the winter, your mother-in-law should also avoid wood smoke.
Many people are unaware of the negative health effects of wood smoke, but the EPA warns that for people with heart disease, short-term exposure to wood smoke has been linked to heart attacks and arrhythmias. If you have heart disease, these tiny particles may cause you to experience chest pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Avoiding wood smoke is better for your lungs as well, and it sounds like her lungs are very vulnerable right now. Something to think about…

Ricee Taylor

December 08, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Thanks sharing your personal story. You have inspired me to check my blood pressure more often and get back on my blood pressure meds. You are right we must take control of our own health not only for ourselves but also the ones we love! Thanks for the healthy inspiration!


December 09, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Thanks for all of the comments. I always love reading what you guys have to say! Here’s to staying healthy and happy everyone!


December 21, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Hey Amy – great article. It took me back to sitting in that waiting room wondering what was in store for mom. And yes I can’t wait for our 14er, one of many things on my list!!! It would be great if you could look into some healthy foods, that are quick and easy to travel with. Good job!

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