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From my heart to yours

Emma Grey

I hope the next 60 seconds are the most important you’ll ever spend reading words of mine.

In the last week, five people who are direct friends of my friends have died of heart attacks in their 40s and 50s.

Five.

That’s five families shattered. Five sets of children who will now grow up without fathers. Five women widowed and thrown into the terrifying reality of sole-parenting. Five people gone, who shouldn’t be…and whose deaths were likely preventable.

In the last two weeks, I also know of two women who have survived heart attacks in their early 40s. One is a very good friend. The other survived only because a stent was put in at the very last moment. And in that same time period, one person messaged me to say my repeated warnings about this have saved her husband’s life. By the time he got to the hospital due to the chest pains he’d kept secret for eight months, sweating and shaking, his blood pressure was so high the doctors were astonished he was still functioning.

Eight instances of heart disease, in two weeks, just amongst my immediate friendship list.

These people were leading busy lives. Those who died likely spent their last weekends standing on the sidelines of kids’ sport. Perhaps they took work home in their final week. Maybe they did a heap of housework. They could have gone for a run or a bike ride (several of them were fit).

Maybe ‘Get Heart Checked’ was on their ‘To Do’ lists. Maybe they thought they were too young to be worried about it. Too healthy.

Perhaps they weren’t aware of these risks. Perhaps they’d never read an article from someone like me, spelling out how shockingly common this is.

When you read an article like this, and decide it doesn’t apply to you, you’re choosing to play Russian Roulette with your life. You’re choosing to risk abandoning your family at a time when they may need you the most.

I know this sounds harsh. Nobody intends to put their families through this much pain. Good people get on with their lives, working, helping others, volunteering, being generous with their time, being great parents — and medical checkups fall further down their lists. I know this, because that’s what I did too, before I was shocked out of my casual approach to heart disease. When I did finally go to the doctor for a checkup, my blood pressure was astronomically high.

As the widow and sole-parent of a six-year-old left fatherless by a heart attack in the last year, I can tell you that nothing is more important than this simple check-up. Nothing. Not your work deadline. Not your caring responsibilities. Not your Master’s assignment. Not your kids’ dance lessons or sports training. Not shopping for food.

I implore you to stop reading this article, right now, and pick up your phone. Please take 30 seconds to phone your doctor and book in a simple heart checkup. (It will likely consist of having your blood pressure taken, along with a blood test. If you are deemed high risk, there are other tests that can be done.)

Please do not say to yourself:

  • I must get around to that
  • I’ll add that to my list
  • I’ll just lose a bit of weight first before going for the test
  • If something’s wrong, I don’t want to know about it
  • I won’t have a problem, there’s no heart disease in my family
  • I’m fit and healthy, I would be low risk

One in three Australians dies of heart disease. One in three. Look around your office right now, or look at the people in your family. Can you afford to play roulette?

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Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

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