I have learned in multiple CPR certification classes the signs of stroke should be committed to memory with the acronym FAST or “Face (is to drooping on one side?)” “Arm (does one side seem to be weak?)” “Speech (is it slurred?)” “Time (if yes to the previous then it’s time to call 911)”.
My grandmother, as she entered her 70s, became increasingly more difficult. She began to suffer from dimensia and Parkinson’s like symptoms, but refused to ever be tested for it as many of those symptoms could also been attributed to her multiple TIAs. Her health condition had deteriorated significantly over the summer of 2001 to the point that my dad and his sister, my Aunt Nancy, needed to make the decision to have her placed in fulltime care in order to rehab her properly. I had just graduated from college and was spending the summer in DC working prior to returning to Massachusetts for graduate school. When I returned home the woman that I saw—the woman who just a couple short months ago who was full of life looked pale, drawn, and diminutive in comparison. Most days when I’d visit her she had no idea we were there, then one day in particular, the day we that was “the day” she began to say her goodbyes. As she kissed me and whispered something inaudible in my ear I cried tears knowing that it was likely the last time I’d speak with my grandmother. My parents brought me back to UMass Amherst that night. I woke up at 4 in the morning for no good reason and went back to sleep. I was awoken a couple hours later by a call from my parents telling me Babci had passed away just a few hours earlier. She was 76.
Both of my grandparents suffered, and died due to complications related to heart disease, and both far too young—especially my grandfather. Knowing that my dad has been on hypertension medication for most of his adult life frankly frightens me. Hypertension runs in families, as was evident with my dad and his parent’s medical history. However, just because something runs in your family does not mean you are doomed to the same fate. Eating a whole food, nutrient dense diet, regular exercise, stress management, avoiding tobacco, limiting your alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy weight are all ways to help avoid heading down the path towards familial hypertension. That is just part of the reason why following a Paleo/Primal lifestyle is important for my immediate family and I.
Sometimes I am still that sad 8-year old girl who never hugged her grandfather that one last time, or that 22-year old who was crying tears over her grandmother knowing that she’d never see her again. I think often how neither of my grandparents lived to see both of my children, for whom their middle names were given. I think of how it wasn’t fair that they left me so young. How it isn’t fair that my children will only ever hear stories of them, and not actually make memories with them. Each year that goes by, while I don’t express it to my father, I silently countdown to age 67 and pray that Lil One and Mr. Man are spared the same sad conversation that I experienced. Lil One loves her Jaju as much as, if not more, than I loved mine. I know it’s morbid, but it’s a truth that I fear. Today, please take action. Please take control of your life, wellness, and health. Take small steps, whether it be a 21-Day Sugar Detox , a Whole-30 Challenge , or by taking part in Pam’s 15-week Ease Your Way Into Paleo challenge . Remember that each small step will lead to a larger one in the future. We can sit back and be victims, and remain the most unhealthy and heaviest nation in the world, where more women die each year due to something as preventable as heart attacks and stroke, or we can all wear red and bring awareness to these statistics and work together, as a nation, in an effort to make this statistic history. We owe it to our loved ones that have passed on, and also to our children—so that they will have memories made with their great grandparents, and not simply just have their name.
Please join me in wearing red and supporting the efforts of the American Heart Association.
*data and statistics garnered from the AHA and their sister site, GoRedforWomen.org