Take Charge of Your Health

By Kim Allen, Guest Blogger

Kim AllenI have a confession to make: I used to be the ‘Queen of Everything.” (I know I am not the only one out there!)  I was the queen of my beautiful Victorian home, the queen of renovations of said home, the queen of my gardens and yard, the queen of single motherhood.  I was the queen of my organized classroom, of parent contacts and conferences, committees, volunteering and weekend children’s activities.  And boy, was I the queen of EVERY holiday, especially (but not limited to) Christmas, replete with inside and outside over-the-top decorations, themed and color-coordinated.

I rarely went to the doctor, even knowing that hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease and heart anomalies run in my family. I even had several situational periods of elevated blood pressure in my own health history.  I KNEW this!  I was so busy being THE QUEEN I ignored my own health.  I was not proactive, even when a summertime check-up showed my blood pressure had risen to ‘borderline’ levels.  Rather than continuing to monitor myself (with my accurate home machine!), and scheduling follow-up doctor visits, I continued at my ‘royal’ break-neck pace.

Thus, one morning in mid-December 2009 (with long day and late night holiday queenly perfectionism is full swing!), I awoke with an odd brownish splat in my right eye. Did I go to the doctor?  No, of course not!  It was the day of a major holiday event at my school, and I was the organizer, naturally!  By afternoon, the splat had expanded and completely blocked the vision in my eye.

After numerous tests, it was determined that I had had a type of eye stroke; the optic nerve had hemorrhaged or ruptured. There is no operation or therapy that can rejuvenate the optic nerve.  I am permanently blind in one eye, sadly, my dominant eye.  Thankfully, the other eye is still healthy, but the complexity of neural connections is lacking.  Where my visual field was once a full royal banquet, my perceptions are now more like a puny snack.

So, I am here to tell you: Strokes happen! Even to apparently ‘healthy’ people.  Numerous studies suggest that stress, particularly for women, increases your risk of stroke.  In addition, women have a greater chance of dying from stroke.  Of the 133, 000 people who die from stroke a year, 60% are women.  Naturally, family history, blood pressure, diet and level of exercise are important factors.

But Sisters, I implore you, relinquish the crown, abdicate the throne of perfectionism, and take charge of your health. Educate yourself about heart health, and don’t ignore the warning signs.  Make time for yourself, and check your numbers, especially blood pressure.  Make time for consistent cardio activity, for doctor appointments, and for enjoyable, relaxing endeavors.  Life is short, and you will want to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

You can join Kim at the Southern NJ Spring Heart Walk on Saturday, May 20, 2017 where she will share her story with thousands of local residents “Heartwalking” for heart and brain health.  Visit www.SNJSpringHW.org for more information.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

The American Heart Association’s blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.


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