Take the American Heart Association's 12-week Go Red BetterU Challenge today! Join Julie, Laura, Molly, Pamela, Paula, Renee and Ruthann in this journey to better health. BetterU is a free online tool that provides resources and tools for women who want to improve their health. Start! now so you can be on the path to becoming a BetterU!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Define "gracefully"

Blog pic I've never really been afraid to get older. Sure, turning 35 made me pause a little bit, but I've always vowed to "gray gracefully." A trip to my doctor's office shortly after my 39th birthday last August made me take a good, long look at what "gracefully" means.

The appointment started out with my blood pressure registering 150/104. And that was the average of the five that they took. It ended with my doctor handing me prescriptions for five medications, with instructions to also take an over-the-counter med on a daily basis. I had just turned 39 years old and I had (still do) high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol, low good cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and a potentially precancerous condition called Barrett's esophagus.

"Is this aging with grace," I had to ask myself? Though I was pretty sure the answer was no, I did little more than fill the prescriptions and wonder if I'd already lived half my life.

A couple of months later, a friend handed me an article from the Indianapolis Star telling about a heart healthy makeover being sponsored by the American Heart Association. I figured I had nothing to lose and several years of living to gain, so I applied. For the crazy story of my not so patient or graceful waiting to hear if I'd been chosen, click here.

Once I learned that I'd been chosen, my first thought was "Yes!" My second thought was "what have I done?" Fear was definitely in my vocabulary.

Now, here I am. Not only starting a new calendar year, but also a new life. A life where I am choosing to take charge of my health; where I am acknowledging that to best take care of my family, I have to take care of myself. It still feels like a scary proposal, but more than that, it feels empowering.

Perhaps graying gracefully isn't so much about youth or age as it is about taking charge of my own health and not being defined by the unhealthy me that has been around for so long.

If you're ready to take charge of your own health, please join me and my fellow Better U challengers. Click here to learn more about the Better U challenge. And please, come back here to let us know how you're doing. Together, we can go red for women -- ourselves included.

Going to the show....

RuthA few months after my first child was born, my mother -- a widow, who'd lost her husband, my father, to a massive single heart attack -- looked closely at my face. "Oh my God, Ruthie....you have cholesterol spots under your eyes. Just like your father did!"

That's the family legacy. The men on my father's side died of heart disease in their 30s and 40s; on my mother's side, death visited in the form of hypertension and strokes. Sure enough, I had little pockets of something under my eyes (and not just the usual bags from fatigue from being up all hours, nursing my baby, etc).

Like most young mothers, I wanted to live more than anything -- I raced to the doctor. This was in 1974. Fortunately, at that time, the cholesterol count came back normal, but in truth, I never really relaxed. Heart disease was always right around the corner, waiting to pounce. Hidden in tiny but potentially lethal doses in my body....

And sure enough, by my mid-50s, my cholesterol was on its march upwards. Lifestsyle choices I made did little to help. I had a sedentary stress-filled job working for a newspaper; I occasionally smoked; I drank. Sure, I dieted and made it to the gym, but was that enough to off-set the monster?

With this shadow hanging over me -- and a cholesterol count of 240 at age 62, despite medicine -- the small notice in the Star of a "healthy heart challenge" for women came as an opportunity to be proactive, not wait for the axe to fall. I applied for the contest, and the day I was chosen was truly one of the happiest and most blessed of my life.

I'm on a journey now, and my mantra every day is THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for caring about women and heart disease....I am "going to the show," meaning the Feb. 26 luncheon, and I hope you will come along with me....

Monday, December 28, 2009

Welcome To The BetterU Challenge Blog

Our Go Red BetterU Challenge presented by St.Vincent Heart Center of Indiana officially kicks off on January 4, 2010.  Check back soon to read profiles on our five challengers and to hear how each woman is doing throughout the 12 weeks.  And be sure to sign up for the free online BetterU Challenge yourself at www.goredforwomen.org/betteru so you can become your own BetterU!