SOUNDOFF: Grandmother inspires research

For the passed four years I have watched my grandma dying from heart disease. I decided to research why people get this disease and found out startling information. I interviewed my grandma and Dr. Debra L. Caswell on the subject. I also learned about it by looking up on the Internet and reading a book on heart disease.

Would you like to have a more active life and possibly live longer? Here’s how you can do it: prevent heart disease. When I interviewed Dr. Caswell at the South Whidbey Pediatrics office, she told me some ways to help young people from getting CVD or cardiovascular disease (heart disease). Eat a low-fat, low-salt, high-fiber diet. Also get plenty of exercise and DO NOT SMOKE or be in a smoke filled environment. She was excited because she had just found information on heart disease on the Internet which showed early screening for the disease that will help prevent you from getting it. The article was very scientific but she explained that we have good and bad cholesterol. The bad clogs our arteries causing heart disease. If young people check their cholesterol levels early in life, it can lower your risk factors.

My grandma got heart disease by living a very high stressed lifestyle, raising seven children and being encouraged by her doctor to smoke cigarettes to relax herself. Because she had to work a full-time job she didn’t have enough time to make nutritious meals; so she ate a high-fat and high-salt diet from fast-food places. She also smoked cigarettes for 50 years until she found out that she had lung cancer.

I asked her if she knew then what she knows now, would she have changed how she lived? She said in a sad way, “Yes I would, because for the past 10 years I’ve had my quality of life taken away just because I chose to smoke, but I can’t change that now.”

My grandma described basically what I read in the heart disease book. Cardiovascular disease is a disease of the heart or the neighboring blood vessels, high blood pressure, problems with heart valves, or muscle blockage or narrowing arteries, or alterations of the heart’s rhythmic pumping. The fact is that the heart pumps one gallon of blood of every minute of your life, or over 2,000 gallons in a single day or a million barrels of blood in a lifetime. That is enough blood to fill three supertankers and the heart weighs less than one pound! It’s simply amazing.

Another fact is that our heart beats 72 times a minute or over 1,000 times per day. Our heart has two pumps working side by side. The left pump is bigger because its job is to send our blood through the whole body. The right side is smaller because it only has to go as far as the lungs.

What’s really scary is that two out of every five Americans will die from CVD. That’s more than from cancer, AIDS, and all the other diseases put together. It could be you or someone that you love. The reason CVD is the number one disease is because of living in a modern society where pollution is in the air and water. It produces more free radicals in the body or destructive molecules which damage ourselves. This is like getting punched in the face over and over, your face is definitely going to be hurting at that time.

Our diets as Americans contain high fats and sugars which lack nutrients to help the heart be strong. A fast-paced lifestyle adds to the risk. Cigarette smoking also harms the heart by constricting blood vessels, causing damage.

So, if you care about your body or your loved ones, you should probably stay away from smoking, eat nutritious balanced meals, and test your cholesterol, NOW. It doesn’t matter what age you are, just do it. And don’t forget, get plenty of exercise.

This article is dedicated to my grandma, Joan Tobolik, with love.

Jenny Petry, age 13, lives in Coupeville.

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