Shannon Traphagen: Let’s work together to end heart disease - The Buffalo News

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Shannon Traphagen: Let’s work together to end heart disease

It was Sept. 3, 2012, when I received a phone call: “Dad’s on his way to the hospital,” Mom said.

Keep a level head, I thought to myself. It will be OK. Dad had a small history of blockages and stents, so we all assumed it was more of the same. However, that was not the case.

By Sept. 4 it had been determined that Dad, only 61 years old, needed to have quadruple-bypass surgery. There are no words to express how I felt. The oldest daughter, and sibling among three, I dropped everything and drove to Rochester to be by my parents’ side. That was the longest drive of my life. Both of my siblings booked flights, and we were all together.

Dad celebrated his 62nd birthday in the hospital – but he celebrated his 62nd birthday! Retired and loving life, Dad is now healthy, playing all kinds of “senior” sports and happy to be alive.

Heart disease kills 1 million people a year. One half of victims of cardiac disease are under the age of 65, and one out of three women die each year from heart disease. It is a serious issue and one that not only men need to pay attention to.

Having lost both of my grandfathers at a fairly young age to heart disease, it wasn’t until after Dad’s surgery that I realized I needed to pay closer attention, too. Until a year ago, I had the same thought as many of you: Heart disease affects more men than women, older people and smokers. I figured that since I am healthy, petite and not a smoker, I’m OK.

But after Dad’s surgery, I took a closer look at the statistics. The idea that heart disease affects only those who are men, old, obese, a heavy smoker or not physically fit is a myth. While it does affect such individuals more frequently, the impacts on the otherwise healthy individual are just as high.

For women, the symptoms can vary greatly from those that men experience. Some women may not show signs at all; 64 percent of women who die suddenly from heart failure had no symptoms. The numbers are staggering, and a bit overwhelming.

But the one thing I learned was that being proactive can save your life. I’m proud of Dad because that’s exactly what he did. He wasn’t feeling quite right, and he didn’t hesitate for one second. He got himself, with some help, where he needed to be – the hospital. That split-second decision saved his life.

The American Heart Association, one of the oldest and largest voluntary organizations devoted to fighting heart disease and stroke, is holding its annual Heart Walk on Sunday at Coca-Cola Field. With hundreds of heart walks being held throughout the nation, the money raised goes to the continuing fight against heart disease.

I’m proud to say that I will be walking with Team Freed Maxick CPAs, raising money for the fight against heart disease.

I’m sorry to say that such a worthy cause is not one I would have looked at joining years ago. Being in my mid-30s, it honestly wasn’t something that had ever been at the forefront of my mind. But it is now, and I walk with new purpose. While my Dad’s story is one of success, my grandfathers were not so fortunate.

So get educated and be proactive. It’s riskier doing nothing than doing something and living to talk about it.

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