Every where you look in February you can see hearts along with the colors red and pink.  Love music streams from every radio station.  Little children get giddy deciding between the SpongeBob or Scooby Doo valentines for their classmates.  Dairy farmers share photos of cows with spots shaped like hearts.  Skyscrapers light up in red.  All because of a special day that occurs on February 14th every year, Valentines Day, the day we celebrate the ones we love.

As dairy farmers we tend to "love" things that the typical American may not quite understand.  We love our cows.  Because we love our cows, almost as much as we love our own children, we  make sure that they are fed right, have comfortable places to rest, and have nice pastures to graze and exercise in.  We protect the environment and practice no-till so we can grow quality feed for them.  If they are sick we will miss our owns child's ball game to nurse them back to health.  Dairy farmers tend to make sure that the world knows how much we "love" dairy products like ice cream and cheese.  More then anything dairy farmers tend to love life.

Even though we love life, farmers are often the first group of people to let their own personal health suffer.  We feel that we get enough exercise just farming or don't want to get behind on spring planting to schedule a visit to the doctor.   That numbness in our body we try to blame on getting kicked by Betsy the cow.  Not only do all these signs of "love" we see every February remind us to tell the ones we love them on Valentines Day, but they also remind us to take care of our hearts.  February in National Heart Health month.

1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men suffer from some form of heart disease or will have a heart attack.  Those numbers scare me.  Not only are statics like that against me, but so is my family history.  Family history is one of the best indicators as to whether or not you may eventually suffer from heart disease.  I already knew that heart disease ran in the family having lost 2 grandfathers, a grandmother,  a cousin in his 30's, and a great-grandfather to massive heart attacks.  On my paternal side of the family 3 of my aunts and uncles have suffered from heart attacks and had some sort of heart surgery.  But then on April 1, 2013, the affects of heart disease hit close to home.  I lost my own father to a massive heart attack at the beginning of the farming season.

It was this loss that prompted me to visit my doctor.  I considered myself a healthy young mother and wife at the age of 35.  Since all odds are against me right now I felt the need to be proactive in my heart health.  After all the normal blood tests for heart disease, things looked good.  However it was discovered that I had a high thyroid.  I just assumed I was losing weight working on the farm and chasing after 3 little boys.  Today my doctor and I have my thyroid under control through medicine, and I continue to be proactive in maintaining a healthy heart.  Not only are we trying to eat healthier, I try to exercise 15-20 minutes 3 to 5 times a week, take a fish pill daily, and take a baby aspirin daily.  I am now 36 and feel like an old women sometimes taking what I call old lady medicine.  My doctor and I decided that these little things were the best for me given my family history.

Valentine's Day is going to be bitter sweet this year since it is also my parent's anniversary.  It fell on a Saturday in 1976 between busy seasons on the farm so it was the perfect day.  My mom also thought then that dad would never be able to forget it.  I wanted to share my story with hopes that it might just make a difference for one person.  If you want to start living a heart healthy life start by talking to your doctor about your risks and set up a plan.  The American Heart Association can also provide you with some good information.

As we celebrate this month of love, think of those you love and how you want to be here for them for a long time.  Talk with your doctor about what you can do to protect your heart.  As farmers we need to love and take care of ourselves as much as we do our cows.

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Comment by Betsy Fleury on February 16, 2014 at 9:21am

Christina, I totally agree that farmers do let their personal health suffer. My husband is proof of that! Like most other dairy famers, he ignored heart attack warning signs. He was getting out of breath very easily, but he attributed that to increasing age. (He is 55.) He was positive that he was OK, since he felt he was getting enough exercise doing farm work to keep him fit and healthy. But finally, I just went ahead and made a doctors appointment for him. It was lucky that I did! After extensive testing, it was discovered that he had two arteries blocked at 80% and one completely blocked. The doctors had him in for quadruple by-pass surgery the next day! He is fully recovered now, but will have to be on medication the rest of his life. So you wives out there, keep your eyes on your husbands' health. And push them if you have to in order to get them to see a doctor if there is any signs of health problems. It saved my husband's life and also saved our family farm!



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