National Heart Disease Month and the Impact of Awareness

I am willing to bet you’ve probably heard of the pink for breast cancer awareness campaign. I’m sure you’ve probably worn the color pink during October. I’d also like to go out on a limb here and assume you have heard of other various illnesses, mostly cancers, that are associated with different color ribbons for awareness purposes.

However, I am willing to bet most of you have not heard of heart disease awareness month or its color. Every February is the designated for national heart disease awareness! Did you know congenital—meaning “at birth”, heart disease is the number one birth defect? How about that 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease? I could go on forever, but that is not my point here.

 

My story

I am about to be extremely transparent with you, so bear with me. My name is Taylor and I have a congenital heart defect. I have had two open heart surgeries. I have also had multiple other procedures. I see a cardiologist throughout the year. However, no one would know this by simply looking at me. After all, I have the pleasure of attending school at Cal Poly and writing this article for you.

Now, you may be asking: “Why do I care; why should I care?” Everyone deals with their own issues. This is why: the next person to be affected by heart disease could be your mom, your dad, your cousin, or aunt, or brother, or sister, or best friend. I was born with my heart condition, however, many other cardiac diseases are developed later in life. Regardless, just like many other illnesses, heart disease is nondiscriminatory and invisible. Most people would look at me everyday and never know I was “sick.” I can exercise, spend time with my friends, go to class and get my degree like any other student. The difference? Some days it’s hard to walk up the stairs. Sometimes, I have to stop walking simply to breathe. I worry about my heart subconsciously every single day.  I need accomodations for testing and other minor things. These illnesses are real, tangible and affect of so many people's’ lives.

 

Be aware—it can make all the difference

I am asking you today as you read this article to simply be more aware of those around you—the person walking slow that you’re dying to get around; the one who stopped in the middle of rush traffic in a hallway; the friend who fell behind on a hike. You truly do not know the battles everyone around you is facing. Simply, be kind. Show support however you can. I may be calling attention to heart disease because it's what I am battling, but there are plenty of other invisible illnesses. Be a shoulder, a friend. Sometimes, for those of us like myself, we just need someone to listen. Therefore, with all this said, join me in recognizing those who battle heart disease and wear red this February.