Self-diagnosis: Listen to your heart - literally

Feb. 9, 2012 at midnight
Updated Feb. 8, 2012 at 8:09 p.m.

Have you ever meditated in bed? I mean, really meditated to the point where you can feel and hear that organ on the left side of your chest pound in rhythmic harmony?

I was doing this the other night, and I realized just how powerful of an organ my heart really is.

I placed my right hand slightly over my heart, and as I felt my chest thump in and out, I became cognizant of the fact that I'm not immortal - my heart could stop at any moment, and my life would cease to exist.

If you don't already know, February is American Heart Month, proclaimed by President George W. Bush in 2005.

I am not new to understanding the value of the human heart.

My grandmother and her two sons (my uncles) died of heart-related illnesses.

Also, my mother has a heart murmur.

So when I place my hand over my heart and feel that eager thump, I smile simply for the fact that it beats.

I reached out to our readers last month in search for an amazing heart story.

We received numerous nominations, and though I could only choose to do a main feature on one, I wish I could have done more.

Each have amazing stories, and it really teaches you not to take for granted each heartbeat.

I realize that age, diabetes, hypertension, smoking and high cholesterol can all contribute to heart disease, but many often forget that a lot of your risk also is based on your family history.

This year, part of my resolution has been to live a healthier lifestyle. Not so much to look better and feel more confident, but for my health.

Dropping a pant size and physically liking who I see in the mirror is just the icing on the cake (Yum, cake).

I remember when my uncle passed away in 2001, I was only 14 at the time, but he said two words that I can still hear in my head today.

"Cuidate bien," or, in English, "Take good care of yourself."

He sat down with me at the kitchen table and spoke about how his lifestyle choices led him to who he was.

He developed diabetes in his early 20s as a result of family history and poor diet. He was a drug user. He never cared about himself.

But at the kitchen table that night, all he had was himself and his thoughts.

He could no longer walk, he was insulin-dependent and life had passed him by.

He died in his early 40s on Christmas Day as a result of co-morbidities with diabetes.

His heart just stopped - but mine still beats.

In the words of my late uncle, "cuidate bien." Listen to your heart in every choice you make.



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