When I realized there were firefighters in my lobby, but no alarm, I immediately began to wonder if someone was hurt.

When I asked, I wasn’t surprised that the young Fireman responded, “I can’t tell you,” because of patient confidentiality and security.

By that answer, her also confirmed my gut feeling that someone was in trouble.

My Neighbor

“Remember that fire alarm a few weeks back?” he started. He stopped me at the vending machine yesterday. My neighbor had an update for me.

He went on to tell me that the woman in my building, who smokes by the doggy door with her sweet pitbull, had a heart attack and died. And her two little boys, who I would I often see in the Cyber Lounge, are now living with their aunt.

She was a stressed single mother, working a job that did not appreciate her, raising two young men.

This led me to think about the women in my life. Specifically, my grandma Marie, who passed when I was 13 from a heart attack.

Do you know a hardworking mother who perhaps drinks too much, smokes cigarettes and could use a little more movement and healthy eating?

I’m sure we all do.

I bet a number of you reading this would answer “yes” to the following questions:

  • Do you move daily?
  • Do you eat well?
  • Are you satisfied with your weight?

Despite how you answered those questions, the majority of you would respond “no” to the next question:

Are you at risk for a heart attack or stroke?

How do you know? Is that your first reaction? Or do you know?

Well, even if you exercise, health a well-balanced diet, and are happy with your current body weight, you too could be at risk.

Read this point from the Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics: 2017 Update:

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts for approximately 800,000 deaths in the United States (US), or one out of every three deaths. Among Americans, an average of one person dies from CVD every 40 seconds. Coronary heart disease (CHD) accounts for the majority of CVD deaths, followed by stroke and heart failure. More than 90 million Americans carry a diagnosis of CVD. Over 45% of non-Hispanic blacks live with CVD in the US.

Go back. Click that link. Here it is again — click here.

That update basically says chances are you need to read this story because you are at risk for CVD. And it if it’s not you, it’s someone close to you.

Who Runs the World?

When I started training, 12 years ago, heart disease was thought of as a man’s problem.

Well, women, your free pass has been revoked.

Why? Because as Beyonce so powerfully asked and then told us- girls run the world.

Running the world, as politicians, CEOs, and mothers, take its toll on your health. The price is stress.

1 out of every 8 women will get breast cancer; 1 out of every 3 women will die of a heart attack or stroke in the U.S.

We have runs and walks, a color, and a whole month dedicated to breast cancer awareness, but the last time I remember hearing about cardiovascular health was on a cereal box. During those consultations, at the part where I ask about family health history, I hear CVD often dismissed.

Where’s the emotion for the number one killer of humans?

The Biggest Misconception

The belief that it can’t happen to you is the biggest misconception around heart health.

At this point, there is no one that is immune to CVD. It’s the #1 killer of Americans. So, yes, you too are at risk.

My intent is not to scare you. Rather, I am pulling the alarm as a warning. A call to take action.

Are you aware of the major symptoms of a heart attack?

Only 27% of us know the symptoms and to call 911.

It pains me to think of those two little boys witness the death of their mother. But I must wonder, “Did they know the signs and did they know where to go to for help?”

If, and it’s a big “if”, we are able to accept this fact, we can then begin to address the issue.

The fact is: heart attacks are more fatal because people either don’t know or ignore the symptoms.

People don’t want to give in to the idea that they are sick. In turn, they put their health in danger, as well as the lives of those around them.

Who doesn’t know that smoking is bad for you? Exactly. Often times, it takes a trip to the doctor warning you of your high blood pressure for you to think about managing your stress.

But that’s not necessarily enough for people to make a decision.

The fact about making healthy lifestyle changes, for good, is that it’s often sparked by inspiration or desparation, but it takes a system, support, and accountable to make those changes stick.

What Can You Do About It?

I know the statistics are scary and this story is sad. Also, know this:

80% of CVD events are preventable by lifestyle changes and education.

That’s where you come in.

You can change your lifestyle; you can share what you know. My focus is on the mindset, belief, of a person. I believe the wrong mindset is the biggest killer of dreams and goals.

If you have made it this far — can you share this?

Keeping reading to learn actionable steps to keep your heart healthy:

Know the Symptoms. The symptoms are different for everyone. Click here to get a more detailed list. You know your body. If something isn’t right and it’s not going away. Check with your doctor. Unchecked symptoms are the main cause of deaths that are preventable.

Know your Family History. The first way to mitigate risk is to know your family history. Next, schedule an appointment.

Go to Your Doctor. Once you are in your physician’s care, you can get checked. It’s the most important thing. Once she has your family history, she can get your blood work and tell you your real risk for heart disease.

Ask the Right Questions. Here are the 3 questions you must ask: What’s wrong with me (why am I feeling this way)? What can I do about it? What does this mean for my long-term health?

Take Your MEDs. Doctors don’t always tell their patients to exercise. If they do, they don’t know: a) how much or b) what’s appropriate for their patients. MED stands for “minimally effective dosage”. Think of it as fitness Rx (prescription). Your favorite personal trainer will know: how often, for how long, what type of exercise you need.

For the Survivors: keep moving forward

A heart attack doesn’t have to be the end of your life. It could be the change you have been needing to bring you a new outlook.

My suggestion: start with your daily routine. The things we do on autopilot will either take us to our destination or cause us to crash and burn. What do you do first thing in the morning? How do you end your night? Start here.

While nothing is the same after such a life-altering event, there’s no medical reason that you can’t go back to the healthy things you used to do. You can also add anything new to your life that you desire.

Here are some post-heart attack tips:

Get Cardio Rehab. Most people, even those living with CVD haven’t heard of cardio rehab. If you have heart disease or have had a heart attack, ask a doctor to get you in cardiac rehab. You will be able to exercise safely while being monitored. You will fill safer and get stronger too.

Change Your Exercise and Diet. We all know the importance of movement and healthy foods. If you were very active before your event you may have to dial down the intensity. If you weren’t active, your fitness Rx should be at least 5 days of activity for at least 30 minutes. Take your MEDs. We all could use more greens on our plates.

Understand White-Coat Syndrome. After you’re called to the examination room, does the nurse let you sit for a while? You may have the white-coat syndrome, or anxiety when you go to the doctor. No worries. Remember: doctors are there to care for you. Also, you are at a higher risk for your second heart attack after the first. Stay under the care of your medical team.

Mental Health Helps. It’s not all about your body. One of the best ways to manage your stress — breathing. Yes, the regular kind is good, but there are targeted breathing exercises that are great. For example, Straw Breath is an awesome heart healthy tool. Here’s how you do it: sit up straight, close your eyes, and pucker your lips as if you are going to sip through a straw. Instead, breathe in through your nose and push air out of your lips. Repeat this six times. Did that help? Do whatever helps — meditation, talk therapy, journaling, etc.

Know Change Happens. Yes, you will have prescriptions. Your life will not be the same. Good. Let your experience change you. Then, you can be of use to others.

Live Well. While nothing will be the same after a heart attack or stroke, it’s comforting to know afterward people go back to living their lives.

In Summary

I hope you can say “yes” to all of the right questions about exercise, diet, and mental health.

I also hope you have the courage and strength to say “yes” to all of the symptoms that signal to you that someone is not quite right.

Maybe it’s your “social” drinking habit, those cigarette “breaks”, or cooking that “soul food” that you and your family love. Say “yes”, I know those things are not healthy for me or my family and “yes” I’m going to take action to change it.

Let me help. Click here and I’ll get back to you in 2–3 days.

If you want to read more, join my weekly newsletter, Winner’s Circle by clicking here.