Popular media today

portrays exercise and healthy eating in such a way that it looks almost like a luxury. It’s fun and fabulous. Yes, that tact is commonly taken in order to attract people to the ideas. But it may be time to step back and realize, it’s not just for fun.

Popular news has been talking

about Luke Perry and his unfortunate passing. Many fans of his Beverly Hills 90210 character are still in shock from his seemingly sudden death at the age of 52. It seems too young for a stroke. Most associate stroke with older ages.

In that same week,

in other news around the world, Former Miss Teen Universe Lotte Van der Zee died after suffering a fatal heart attack the day before her 20th birthday.

For me, it brings up two thoughts:

1) death does not discriminate when it comes to age, and 2) no matter what age we are, we are always lucky (gifted, I like to call it) to be alive.

The truth is

that 800,000 people per year are victims of stroke in America. Roughly 30 percent of those people are under the age of 65. Ten percent are under the age of 45. That means that 80,000 people under the age of 45 are victims of stroke every year in America.

Similarly, every year

about 735,000 Americans have heart attacks. About ten percent of them are under the age of 45. This comes to about 73,500 people per year.

There are things that we can’t control

when it comes to heart disease, like genetics. But there are risk factors we can control. The top seven controllable risk factors are: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, diet and exercise.

Of course the last two items on that list

affect the other five. Having a healthy diet and exercising reduces your risk for many illnesses, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity. And most I know who smoke and take up these two healthy habits, tend to want to quit within months of doing so.

Now we know from the science of epigenetics

that what we do daily affects how our genes are expressed. So you can dial down your risk for diseases and illnesses in your family tree with daily, healthy habits. Or, you can dial them up with the wrong habits.

If you want to be a healthy leader,

someone who makes a difference far into the future, you need to take responsibility for your own life and health. Fitness and eating right isn’t all just for “fun” and luxury. It’s actually, seriously, important.

With that I’ll remind you

that diets don’t work nor does overhauling your entire life in a short time. What does work is taking one step and refining that habit until it works in your life. And then making the next step, and then the next. For example: how about tomorrow have water in place of soda, have one seriously healthy meal every day, or swap out that candy for an apple? Other worthy examples are: start taking a 10 minute walk after lunch every day, spend a little more time at the gym every week, or have some walking meetings instead of sitting all the time.

It’s that simple.

Start small, build a strong foundation and take it from there.


  1. Center for Disease Control. (2017, September). Stroke Facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm
    National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion , Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention
  2. Goodman, B. (2014, October 03). Strokes and the Toll They Take on Younger Adults. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/stroke/news/20141001/strokes-younger-adults#1
  3. Heart Disease Affects Women of All Ages | NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/winter07/articles/winter07pg6.html
  4. Heart Disease Facts & Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  5. Stroke Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/facts.htm