This past February, Americans all across the nation participated in National Heart Disease Awareness Month to raise money and attentiveness for the many different heart conditions that take up the daily activities of our friends and families. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, one in four deaths are caused by some sort of heart disease.

According to the Center for Disease Control, half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for heart disease; high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. High rates of obesity and high blood pressure among younger people (ages 35-64) are putting them at risk for heart disease earlier in life.

The top three conditions leading to a heart disease, according to CDC reports.

  • High blood pressure –Millions of Americans of all ages have high blood pressure, including millions of people in their 40s and 50s. About half of people with high blood pressure don’t have it under control. Having uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and other harmful conditions, such as stroke.
  • High blood cholesterol –High cholesterol can increase the risk for heart disease. Having diabetes and obesity, smoking, eating unhealthy foods, and not getting enough physical activity can all contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels.
  • Smoking – More than 37 million U.S. adults are current smokers, and thousands of young people start smoking each day. Smoking damages the blood vessels and can cause heart disease.

Junior Taylor Cripe lives each day not knowing how the heart disease that lives with her father could affect her life. Her father has had to go through two major surgeries in less than three years. She worries every single day about him and says that is pretty much all she can do.

“On October 19, 2016 while he was driving himself to the hospital, my father suffered a massive heart attack. At the time he was getting 5-10% of the blood he needed to survive. So, they went in and put an LVAD in on October 24th, 2016. The LVAD controlled his heart and the amount of blood his heart was releasing and receiving. He had two batteries on his hips that were attached to the controller which was how his LVAD was controlled and how it worked. He had the LVAD for over two years,” said Cripe.

The LVAD was her father’s heartbeat.

On January 2ndof 2019, Taylor’s father received a phone call that the doctors had found him a new heart since he had been on the transplant list. The next day, her father went into surgery for 5 hours and 57 minutes. By then, Taylor’s father finally had a new heart.

“Right now, his immune system is totally destroyed and must wear a mask when out in public. He goes once a week every week for a biopsy so they can see if the heart is being rejected,” said Cripe.

Currently, Taylor lives with her mother and her brother here in town, while her father stays with her grandparents in Cicero, IN.

“All I do honestly is stand by his side and push him forward. I do not do much, seeing he is away from home until he is recuperated. I worry everyday about him and that’s pretty much all I can do if I am being honest. I am not the hero, my father is,” said Cripe.

Sophomore Blake Bryan shares similarities with Cripe, however he walks in a slightly different path than her. Bryan had an oblation done in 8thgrade that failed, therefore he hopes to get the next one here soon.

“My heart condition is called Super Vascular Tachycardia and it is a heart arrhythmia that sends my heart rate to 215-300 beats per minute,” said Bryan. “I usually have to stop whatever I am doing at least once to go bare down and concentrate my breathing to prevent it from getting out of control.”

Bryan does not let his heart condition stop him from being a normal teenager and doing the things he loves. Although he has to take breaks to regulate his breathing by blowing through a straw, Blake was a key component for the Junior Varsity Boys Basketball team this past winter.

Although February is the designated month for Heart Disease Awareness, it is always smart to monitor your health, no matter the month, to prevent future conditions that could affect your heart, health, and well-being.