Hello, everyone! My name is Melissa Villamizar, I am a certified Group Exercise Instructor and Personal Trainer currently residing in Dallas, TX. Having played soccer since the age of four and all the way through college, I have been involved in fitness my entire life. I understand the science behind exercise and the emotions that accompany it as well. My mantra is that exercise should be something one looks forward to, since no one ever leaves the gym regretting that they came!

However, good health and happiness is more than just hitting the gym a few times a week. The foods we choose to fuel our bodies with, the relationships we maintain with family, friends and coworkers and how we deal with stress are other elements in our lives that need to be taken into consideration.

I often meet people who look at their current physical condition and wonder how they got there—”there” being extremely deconditioned and likely very sick. Maybe you’re thinking the same thing right now or maybe you know someone else who is suffering from the “How Did I Get Here” syndrome. Regardless, it’s a very serious issue that if left unaddressed could lead to heart disease, stroke, hypertension, obesity and many other illnesses. Instead of waiting until it’s almost too late to address the problem, I’d prefer to help prevent people from having to face it in the first place, if possible.

Sadly, the majority of the diseases that affect us today are caused by life choices. Lack of exercise and poor food choices are two of the worst culprits. Improved technology now allows us to do more with less effort. In today’s world, walking to the mailbox is out and electronic mail is in. Housekeepers, gardeners, remote controls and video games run our households. Physical fitness programs in schools have been compromised and those same schools are being filled with vending machines stocked with processed foods. We work long days—often sitting at a desk for hours at a time.

Aside from not exercising enough, we are also not properly fueling our bodies. Food options are available to us today that promise the “full flavor” of an item with full calories, full fat, full sodium, etc., but with half the calories, zero fat, zero sugar and zero sodium. Think about that for a moment—food manufacturers had to add something to that food to make it smell, taste and look the same as it’s full-fat, full-calorie counterpart—and odds are it isn’t something healthy. 61 percent of today’s food is processed—meaning it contains less than one-tenth the nutrients it had in the native state. Even seemingly “healthy” foods aren’t as nutritious as they used to be. Fruits and vegetables contain significantly lower levels of vitamins and minerals than in the past because they are grown in nutrient-depleted, over-farmed soil, coupled with the use of pesticides and genetic modifications.

Since 1965, the nutritional content in apples is down 41%, watercress down 88%, broccoli down 50%, collard greens down 85%, tomatoes down 43%. – United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)

In fact, in order to get the same amount of iron today that was in a spinach salad in 1953, you would have to consume 43 bowls of spinach! Don’t get me wrong, I truly love spinach, but that’s a LOT of spinach! In order to ensure our bodies get the proper nutrients, it’s important to eat organic fruits and vegetables and you may want to considering speaking with your doctor about possible supplementation for your diet.

Chronic diseases affect men and women of all ages, shapes and backgrounds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007-2008), “approximately 68 percent of American adults are now overweight or obese.” And it’s getting worse. Humans are now living longer, leading to the increase in the number of individuals developing chronic diseases and disability.

“In the United States, approximately 80 percent of all persons older than 65 have at least one chronic condition and 50 percent have at least two.” – National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)

Our current environment is producing people who are inactive and increasingly susceptible to heart-related and other chronic conditions.

It has always been important to take care of our hearts, minds and bodies, but now it’s more important than ever. For the first time, our children will not outlive us. Although there are many things to be fearful of in this world, so many of them are preventable. Arm yourself with the knowledge to make smart decisions so that in a few years, you are not looking at yourself wondering “how did I get here?” Today is the first day to your new, healthy you!

What will you do today for your heart health?


The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

The American Heart Association’s blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.