Last week I started posting about the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women: Better U Movement. This 12-week program is a way to take steps - one at a time - to understand and learn about the importance of heart health. The steps are literal, as they should be when one is talking about heart health. You can make over your heart, make it stronger, make it work more efficiently, and make yourself healthier. You might ask me how I know this information, and my first answer would be that I am a fitness instructor. However, the more important and even relevant response is that I suffered a stroke in July 2006 and underwent open heart surgery several months later. Because my heart had been worked, running up stadium stairs, the 1996 Chicago Marathon, hundreds of step aerobic classes, laps around tracks, hours on a treadmill, and years perfecting squats and bicep curls, I recovered from the stroke and from the heart surgery and found myself back at the gym, back to getting my heart beating like it once was, less than two weeks after the stroke and less than two months after the heart surgery*.
Yes, years of working my heart actually saved it. Every single day that I decided to exercise and to work out, I made a decision to save myself. Yes, the stroke happened after I taught a step aerobics class (irony at its best...) but due to previous training, and a conscious decision to take care of myself, I emerged healthier that I was before, stronger than I was before, and more aware of what I needed to do to ensure that I could forever choose to make a difference in my life and the lives of others.
*While this time-frame worked for me, it might not be the most ideal time frame for all stroke / heart surgery patients. It is always best to check with your doctor before starting / resuming any kind of exercise program.