Friday, February 8, 2008

Heart Lessons

I had my annual physical a couple of weeks ago with my new doctor. So far, I'd only seen her in the context of my son's well-child checkups, but I really liked her. Her office typically does blood work with cholesterol & diabetes screenings at annual appointments, and in addition to that I requested a thyroid panel as well. A few days ago, I got the results of the blood work back, and it appears I have a cholesterol problem.

On one hand, I'm shocked - I eat pretty healthily (healthfully?) and I think I'm reasonably active -- as most moms of two year olds are, can I get an amen? On the other hand, though, I'm not that suprised. I have a really strong family history of heart problems. My mom's cholesterol has been horribly high since she was in her early 30's (and I'm getting close to that at 27) and she's been on medication to keep her levels lower for years now.

Over the last ten or twelve years - basically, ever since I left my parents' house to go to college - my mom has been on a big health kick. In addition to her cholesterol medication, she's started walking five miles every day. She eats three or four servings of fruits and veggies with every meal! She stopped drinking coffee and sodas, and sticks to water and juices now. I'm really proud of her, and I think it's great that she's taking better care of herself. But I wonder: what would have happened if she'd made those changes sooner?

While I was at home, I saw a mom who could put away a half-gallon container of ice cream all by herself every two days. I saw a mom who frequently bought a bag of candy, chips, or other snack food on her way out of the grocery store, and ate most of it (she usually shared a little with us kids!) by the time our car was back in our driveway. I saw a mom who didn't exercise - even walks around the block - and who really didn't ever have time by herself away from our family.

I think I internalized a lot of those lessons - even though I doubt she planned to "teach" me those things. Now, I have never had quite the sweet tooth that she has; and my metabolism and body shape are very different from hers, so if I ate that much ice cream I'd be 100 pounds overweight instead of my current 10! But still: I saw her "treat" herself for a long, hard day... with food. And I saw her put her kids and family first, all the time, even if it meant she didn't get to do basic things to take care of herself.

I'm younger than she was when she first was diagnosed with high cholesterol. I want to make some healthy choices and changes that not only put me in better shape and better heart health -- but also show my son, and any future kids who come along, that taking care of yourself is a valid choice. An important choice. That our bodies are only as strong as we allow them to be, and that we need to invest in our own futures by making our bodies as strong as they can possibly be.


Heather said...

You are smart to make changes now. I think it's easier in your twenties (or younger)...but maybe I just think that because I'm not in my twenties!

It's amazing the amount of messages we send our kids without saying a word.

Michelle said...

Well, I don't have much time left in my twenties ;-) so I'd better get crackin'!

You're right, though. I think that we teach so many things just by what we do, where we go, what we value -- it can be hard to see it objectively.

Getting this test result really made me think hard about the stuff I have been unconsciously mimicking and how much I want to stop that cycle.

Minnesota Matron said...

Oh, sweet youth! I am, as the name suggests, of a certain age. And I can tell you: the things you do now will show up on your skin 20 years later. Think veggies, yogurt, fruit! But that pesky cholesterol thing: we are rock star eaters of the tofu stir fry sort and still, my husband has high cholesterol. So does his mother and hers. . . I think for some things we're just happy there's medication.