Until about five years ago, I had few significant health issues. I was pretty average in terms of how I ate, how much I exercised, how much I weighed, and how I felt. I was well enough to live an average life. Like a frog in boiling water, my health decline was so gradual that I didn’t notice what was happening right away. Until I ran head first into a brick wall called cardiomyopathy. The cardiomyopathy was triggered by my fourth pregnancy, a rare complication called Peripartum Cardiomyopathy (PPCM).
PPCM is not the result of any lifestyle factors. In fact, researchers are not sure what really causes the potentially fatal complication. Many women affected, myself included, have no prior cardiac issues and probably don’t have any lifestyle factors, such as smoking or drinking. Some have suggested that it is an autoimmune disease, but as far as I know, there is little evidence that proves this theory.
By the time I was diagnosed, I was in severe congestive heart failure at 25% LVEF (left ventricular ejection fraction). I began a regimen of cardiac medications, joined a cardiac rehab group, and began changing our diet. My husband was my biggest cheerleader. He watched our sodium intake like a hawk, and in fact eats very little added salt to this day. He encouraged me through a rough recovery. Within a few months, I was stronger and had more energy. In some ways, I felt better than I had in several years.
While the PPCM motivated us to change some of our average eating habits, such as watching our sodium intake, I was unaware then that many more health challenges still awaited me. Years and years of just being average took their toll on me, and I began realizing that the slow decline was going to require a slow recovery, too. Probably the hardest thing about chronic health problems is accepting a new normal while not giving up the fight to recover or improve your health. With five children (I went on to have one more pregnancy after recovering from PPCM) and a great husband, my motivation to live a healthy life is very high.
We have made some significant lifestyle changes over the last five years, none of which are without merit, but I’ll be the first to admit there are many more changes we need to make as we continue to improve not only our health, but the future health of our children. The world they are growing up in is far different than the one I grew up in, and I’m afraid they will face their own challenges sooner than I did. I hope to help them develop healthy lifestyle habits that will serve them well throughout their life.
I am so grateful for my husband and children and their constant encouragement. Our family is my primary motivation for healthy living. I need them as much as they need me.
Who is your health hero? Someone who motivates you to make positive changes and live a healthy life?
P.S. This post was solicited by American Recall Center, a website that provides drug and medical device recall information and practical healthcare information. My opinions and story are my own. I receive no compensation for this post. ARC is spotlighting hip replacements in March. Read how one woman struggled with a hip replacement gone bad in their community section.