Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Take care of your heart (health)

Sharon Chang

Ever since I was little, I’ve always wanted to be just like my dad. He is funny, wise and the hardest worker I know. He worked hard for many reasons, but he always told my siblings and I that it was because of us. His family was the center of his world, and growing up he was always the center of mine. 

A couple of months ago, my dad had a full physical and screening for a new job. My dad has always had a healthy lifestyle, and as we waited for the results, I felt so comfortable I forgot we were even waiting on them. I was shocked to find out that wasn’t the case. 

The doctors found a leak in one of my father’s heart valves, a condition that would require open heart surgery to fix, otherwise more serious issues could arise down the line. As he began contemplating his heart valve replacement options, I began to ask questions. If it caused an irregular heartbeat, why was it never noticed in previous physicals and checkups? Did it worsen over time? 

There are several ways a leaky heart valve can worsen over time. Anxiety, caffeine, intensive exercise, a lack of sleep and alcohol consumption can all contribute to worsening symptoms, all elements commonly associated with parts of the college lifestyle. 

My dad was a government student at UT in the 1990s. He often worked multiple jobs at a time, was a part of a fraternity, was a leading member of the Texas Cowboys and for a short time was a part of the track and field team as a hurdler. With the stress of school and leadership, he lived on coffee, sleepless nights, intense workouts and about 20 dollars a week. He put his whole self into anything and everything he did, both during and after college. 

Despite how much I admired how hard he worked here at UT, it seems obvious that parts of his lifestyle contributed to his condition, and it makes me examine my own. 

A few weeks ago, I got sick — nothing serious, just a routine back-to-school illness. As the doctor checked my vitals, she noticed an irregularity in my heartbeat that she recognized as premature ventricular contractions and recommended that I follow up with a cardiologist. As I await my appointment, I can’t help but wonder if I’m in the same position as my dad, whose condition is hereditary.

Like my dad, I’ve coped with the college lifestyle of a large workload and widespread involvement with unhealthy habits. I don’t sleep well, cope with drinking lots of caffeine and subject myself to stress. In finding out about my dad’s condition, I’ve begun re-evaluating how to balance my life at school over fear of the potential of my own health deteriorating. 

For young people, heart health is not prioritized because it’s not often an issue for our demographic. Those who are 18-24 are at much lower risk of contracting or suffering from heart disease. However, during the four years spent in college, everyone should screen their heart for any possible irregularities.

Beyond screening it is important to pay more attention to the stress we are putting our bodies through, as we have no idea how that stress will affect our long-term health. 

If you end up in a situation like my dad, where he was unaware of how he was putting stress on his body with a heart condition, it could be a matter of life or death.

Meltzer is a writing and rhetoric freshman from San Antonio, Texas.

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