Fighting with All of Your Heart

Cardiovascular disease, commonly known as heart disease, is not an easy condition for anyone. For Nicole, it’s a part of her family. Her mother lived with the condition and passed away at the age of 57 as a result of it. On her mother’s passing, Nicole says, “She was managing pretty well. I would not have said that she was sick until her death, so her passing was a huge, devastating blow to me and my family.” Then, as if the loss of her mother wasn’t enough, Nicole was diagnosed with heart disease a few weeks later.

The unfortunate truth is that heart disease is genetic, which simply means it can be passed onto each new generation. Paul, a cardiovascular researcher with a biopharmaceutical company based in California, says that he and his team have been studying the genetics of a large number of people in hopes of better understanding what specifically causes heart disease. Through this research, they’ve made breakthroughs on how our genes lead us to or protect us from certain diseases.

Nicole always did what she could to take care of herself. She stuck to a routine workout plan and was fortunate enough to not have to take medication regularly. So when she received her diagnosis, she was more afraid of what she would have to do to treat the condition than the disease itself. Nicole explains, “When I was diagnosed, I was in denial. That’s the only way I can describe it.” Nicole’s denial and decision to keep her lifestyle unchanged, ultimately led to her condition worsening.

When asked what he would tell patients with heart disease, Paul says to remain optimistic, live every day and never give up hope because new breakthroughs are being discovered that are helping researchers move closer to finding a cure. Nicole eventually decided that she was no longer going to live in fear. She took her medication regularly, watched her diet and began exercising. All in an effort to take back the reins of her health.

“My activity was now focused around heart health, not so much losing weight, which comes as a byproduct, but my exercising regimen was really about keeping my heart healthy,” Nicole said. With heart disease, information is power. By working with her physician and a nutritionist, Nicole got the information she needed to manage her condition. Once Nicole got into a regular routine, the consistency allowed her to manage her health more efficiently and resulted in her returning to her old self again. 

It’s a condition that becomes a part of you, but it’s not a condition that has to become you. When you take care of your health and fight heart disease head on, you can live just as freely as before. Paul explains that you have to have a fighter’s spirit to be a researcher. There are many bumps in the road and tests that will fall short, but with every failed attempt comes a renewed sense of tenacity, which Paul and his fellow researchers use as fuel to keep the team pushing forward.

Paul describes his motivation by saying, “It is for the patients. Those are the people we want to treat, those are the lives we want to change, that we want to improve. The lives that we want to save.” It’s not about finding a cure for their own achievement, it’s about finding a good solution to help the thousands of people who are suffering from heart disease every day. And with new technology becoming available, researchers like Paul are getting a better understanding of not only heart disease itself but other diseases as well within the body. That’s providing real hope for the future.

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