Taking it to heart – why I’m wearing red today

Are you like me who, when I get notifications about ‘xxxxx’ Awareness Day (fill in the blanks) you give it a cursory glance, ‘Like’ the post to assuage any feelings of guilt because you know it’s a just cause and you should engage with it more, and then get on with your day job?

It was with such a thought I approached the topic of Wear Red Day, as I’d never heard of it before and whilst I would always have consideration for whomever it affected, I was sure that it was just another date in the calendar that some well-intended cause had decided to stick their flag in and claim as theirs.

However, when a colleague pointed out what Wear Red Day is about, it did grab my attention. You see, the day is designated to raise awareness of heart health and specifically congenital heart problems in children. Although awareness of heart problems transcend any differentiator of people, I challenge anyone not to take more than a passing glance at any condition that affects children. 

The awareness day was started in America, and as is our wont, we Brits have adopted the ways of our Atlantic cousins, and it’s now a day we also assign to all matters of heart health.

It resonates particularly strongly with me as just over 12 months ago, I found myself in the very capable hands of our NHS staff, in particular the heart specialists, having a stent fitted to open up the main artery to the heart that was 70% blocked. As wake up calls go…this was right up there!

This was quite a shock for me as all potential heart challenges indicators remained unticked. Indeed, whilst having many consultations with cardiologists, they would all ask the same questions. Do you smoke? Do you drink excessively? Do you exercise? Are you carrying any extra weight? What’s your diet like? All of which I could confidently answer with quite a smug response (even my diet is 90% vegetarian, which will surprise those who know me well! And…. I don’t eat any processed sugar). It did leave a few scratching their heads as to why a seemingly fit, healthy person who wouldn’t normally be on their risk radar finds himself on their operating table?

However, there was one question I couldn’t answer:

“Do you have a history of heart conditions in your family?”

I don’t know as I’m not connected to any blood relations (for reasons too complex to answer here), but I wonder if, as a child, there was a chromosome defect that could have hidden itself until now?

It was only when I was being checked out of my hospital bed (incredibly, just 19 hours after being considered too ill to walk to the hospital toilet unaccompanied) that the final consultant shared a thought with me that made it all make sense… he said the indicators are exactly that…Indicators. But your heart can suffer from all your past ills. So, the fact that I’ve eaten more portions of fish and chips, full English breakfasts and cream cakes in the past, and my exercise regime now would be described as more on the gentle side of the scale meant that the slow ‘silting up’ process was already well established before I repented my previous unhealthy ways.

The good news is it’s never too late to change. You can turn around a potentially unhealthy situation by simply eating healthier, exercising more and having a conscious awareness of what you need to be doing to keep a healthy heart. Take it from me; you don’t want to have any near misses before you decide to take action. In 2020, 15.2 million people died of heart disease compared to 4 million who died of COVID-19!

Don’t wait to get your heart checked out, and more importantly, if you have children, get them checked out too. Happy Wear Red Day! 😊

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