Happy Heart Month!

Happy National Heart Month!

It’s National Heart Month! How am I going to celebrate? Maybe I’ll make the bed or take out the garbage.  

My guess is that you might think that I’m out of my mind to suggest that doing chores is any way to celebrate anything. Let’s face it, making the bed and taking out the garbage aren’t the most exciting things to do. I doubt that anyone is counting down the hours to do menial household work as a form of celebration. 

But . . .

Making the bed every morning and taking the garbage out every Tuesday are like Thanksgiving for me, just without the turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes with gravy and pumpkin pie with Cool Whip. Fluffing up pillows and dragging bins to the curb are moments of pure appreciation. I still don’t enjoy doing these thankless tasks, but something special always happens when I do them. I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude. 

I think of the time during the depth of heart failure when it would take ten, sometimes fifteen, minutes to make the bed after Sandra left for work. She insisted I leave it for when she came home. I insisted on doing it, taking breaks and slumping onto the bed to catch my breath between smoothing out sheets and flipping over the comforter. Now it just takes a minute to do the same thing. Gratitude!

There was a time when taking out the garbage was a struggle. Rolling the garbage can and recycle bin down the driveway wasn’t so bad. Walking back up was another story. I had to stop a couple of times to lean against the fence to catch my breath before going into the garage that leads to the back door. I finally couldn’t do it at all. I now smile and thank God for his grace as I stroll down and walk up the driveway with bins in tow. Gratitude!

Sometimes I can’t stop thinking about making the bed and taking out the garbage. Laboring up the driveway during those tough times pops into my mind every once in a while when I’m out for a long walk. I smile, chuckle to myself in amazement, thank God, and keep chugging along. When I quickly and easily make the bed to start the day, I’m reminded of my damaged heart huffing and puffing. I smile, chuckle to myself in amazement, thank God, and keep chugging along.

Here’s the thing. Having a bad heart is no joke. We take it for granted when it’s working the way it’s supposed to work, kind of like we do with life partners. When things are good, it’s all laughs and love. When things are bad, it’s like, “how did we get to this dark place?” The key in both cases is to take care of what takes care of you before it doesn’t anymore.

Let me be more clear. Your heart runs the show. Bad heart, bad show. No heart, no show. Since my heart attack in 2010, I’ve lost a sister-in-law and friend to cardiac arrest, and my next door neighbor to a heart attack. Three friends suffered and survived heart attacks, another just had a pacemaker placed, and a cousin recently had bypass surgery. 

My relationship with heart and cardiovascular disease didn’t start that fateful summer in 2010. When I was ten years old, my maternal grandmother passed away from a heart attack. I can still see Mom’s anguish when she told us how doctors tried to revive Grandma with the electric paddles. Mom and Dad both had heart attacks in their 50s. Dad died of a massive stroke. My sister was 49 years old when she passed away because a virus attacked her heart. My oldest brother is currently recovering from a stroke. It’s not a pretty picture.

Cancer gets all the press. Who hasn’t seen or heard the phrase, “Cancer Sucks”? Well, heart disease sucks pretty bad too. In fact, it sucks even more. According to the American Heart Association, heart and cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death in the world. Over 500,000 people die every year in the United States alone because of heart disease. Every year! Here’s the kicker: Unlike cancer, heart disease is largely preventable.

Losing family and friends to heart disease can get demoralizing. During the past thirteen years, I’ve learned a lot about the heart and the disease that ultimately catches up to many of us. As a volunteer for the American Heart Association, I’m passionate about prevention, and I plan to use my gift for writing and speaking to raise awareness about this pandemic.

To celebrate National Heart Month, I ask you to take a few minutes to become more aware of the causes of heart disease and ways you can prevent or slow it down. Here are two ideas to get started:

  • Know your family medical history. According to the American Heart Association, 50% of heart disease is caused by genetics. If you know that you could potentially be in trouble, making lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
  • Lifestyle choices like smoking, eating a high-fat diet, not managing stress, and not exercising accounts for the other 50%. Take a look at Life’s Essential 8 habits to protect your heart by clicking here to help you make good heart health choices. Start today!

As for me, I’m celebrating the kickoff to National Heart Month in a big way. I started the day with a bowl of oatmeal, walnuts, blueberries, a hard-boiled egg, and the first of three liters of water I drink daily. I read a little bit (another one of my passions) while sipping a cup of coffee. As I walked down the driveway for a four mile hike, I saw the garbage bins I had taken out the night before on the curb. I smiled, chuckled in amazement, thanked God, and kept chugging along.

Oh yeah . . . I made the bed and brought in the empty garbage bins.

It was a great way to celebrate.


My book, Summer in the in the Waiting Room, recounts my battle with and triumph over heart disease. Buy it by clicking here.

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