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Knowing your risk factors can help you stay healthy

As the month of February comes to a close, don’t forget about your heart health. Before 1900, very few people died of heart disease. Since then, heart disease has become the No. 1 killer in the United States.

The age of technology has made life easier and made people more prone to heart disease. Before the Industrial Revolution, most people made their living through some sort of manual labor. Walking was the major means of transportation.

With the arrival of automation, life became less strenuous. Most manual labor was either replaced or assisted by machinery. Automobiles, washing machines, elevators and vacuum cleaners became commonplace. Modern conveniences made physical activity unnecessary. Along with the change in lifestyle came a change in diet.

The combination of a sedentary lifestyle and a rich diet led to an increase in clogged blood vessels, heart attacks and strokes. Heart disease became commonplace. The rate of heart disease increased so sharply between 1940 and 1967 that the World Health Organization called it the world’s most serious epidemic.

These last several weeks, I came to realize how close heart disease is to me. I see myself as a healthy woman who exercises daily and eats healthfully.

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I have now learned that heart disease is very common in my dad’s family. When I was a young girl, I was on vacation with my family, my grandparents and many of my aunts and uncles and their families. One night, I awoke to find the adults in despair.

My grandparents had left that morning to return home. That night, we received a call that my grandpa had died of a heart attack at the age of 57. Mind you, this was 1973, when America was not so aware of heart attacks and not many people knew CPR. Fast forward to the year 1997, I received a phone call from my mom; my dad who was 57 had had a heart attack. He suffered his heart attack the same month and was the same age as my grandpa. I was fortunate that my dad survived his heart attack. Just weeks ago, another family member suffered a heart attack. My uncle (my father’s brother) had a heart attack at age 65 and is still not doing well. Then I received a call from my brother this week that my aunt (my father’s sister) had suffered a heart attack at age 71.

What a wake-up call for my family. I have been very blessed so far with low cholesterol and blood pressure, but with the history of my dad’s family, things could change for me.

My point in sharing this information with you is to encourage you to know yourself and your family history. If your family has a history of heart issues, you might be at a higher risk for heart disease. Get regular checkups with your physician. Know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Start an exercise program after consulting your physician, or if you already are exercising, continue this practice. Eat healthfully, minimize stress and take care of your body; remember, you only have one heart and one life.

Reminders

• The Tennis Woody-Mixer (one male and one female) doubles tournament, where the male partner is required to use a wooden racquet, will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 14. The cost is $10 for members and $15 for non-members, and registration is being taken at our front desk until March 10. If you have any questions, call me at 433-1804.

• A tennis tournament for males and females in grades nine-12 will includes a singles or doubles tournament. The date is Saturday at the YMCA. Warm-ups will start at 7:30 a.m., and play will finish around 4 p.m. Registration is open and will run through Wednesday; sign-up at our front desk. Players will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. The cost is $ 5 for Y members and $10 for program participants. After Wednesday, the cost is $10 for members and $15 for program participants. If you have any questions, contact the tournament director, Gary Olson, at 437-1411 or gbolson@charter.net.

Kristi Stasi is fitness director at the YMCA of Austin.

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