Tonya Kraft South Dakota

I lost my mother on June 6th, 2002, to a massive heart attack.  She was just  53 years old.  It wasn’t just the loss of my mother; it was the realization that there was a genetic issue that could not be hidden anymore. My mothers’ mother and grandmother both passed away from heart disease and strokes, at 56 and 54 respectively. I needed to be aware of and start looking at prevention in my family. I have two daughters that I need to protect and make them aware of the genetic issue of heart disease in the women in my family.

Two years ago at 38, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. I have never smoked, I run and work out daily and have always watched what I ate. No matter what I have done to keep myself healthy, the chances of me developing heart disease and possibility of a stroke in my 50’s just increased.

As a family member and an health educator, I became very active in the American Heart Association and on April 8th and 9th I was honored to attend the “Join the Cure” in Washington, DC and with other advocates from across the United States have the opportunity to meet and visit with members of our South Dakota congressional delegation and discuss the importance of high blood pressure and advocate on behalf of the Million Hearts Initiative, a public health program to bring awareness to the importance of “Knowing Your Numbers.”  It was an experience I will never forget and enjoyed the people I met and stories I heard.

I encourage everyone to get their blood pressure and cholesterol checked and know your numbers - it can save your life!