The Quintanas, Week 11: A Matter of the Heart is the Heart of the Matter ...

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

Michelle Quintana father picture

Daddy's Girl. Credit: Nory Garcia

I thought this was all about me and David, my hubby, and of course the kids -- but the Healthy Families Challenge is catching on.

It has encouraged those around me to join my quest for a fit family.

As I shared in week 8, we've had several excursions to hospitals in the name of broken digits and pinched nerves. The most impacting one? That was when I got a call that my 53-year-old dad was suffering a heart attack. It was his second in seven months.

I quickly got myself to the hospital, but was with him for only a few short moments before he was taken into surgery, where doctors repaired a broken stent -- a piece of mesh that keeps an artery open -- and added a new one, bringing him to a total of seven. My dad is well now, but this had to be one of the scariest experiences of my life: When I saw him, his blood pressure was behaving like a yo-yo, and the pain in his jaw and chest were unbearable even after several doses of morphine and nitro glycerin.

This experience is leading the doctors to do several studies on my father to see if his problem is genetic. They cannot figure out what has caused two heart attacks in seven months, and why the blood is clotting even though he is taking blood thinners and eating healthy.

I can figure out this much: If his heart issues are genetic, I need to worry about him and me.

If I do not take care of myself, I, too, could end up worrying my kids some day. And, since I've always been better at taking care of everyone else, I'm also making a point to share with those we love the morsels of wisdom we are gathering.

Five years ago, while on a family vacation, my dad, Luis Garcia, suffered several heart attacks -- a few of them minor, and one major. This surprised many: My dad was a vegetarian at the time; he had never smoked; and he did not drink. He could have exercised more, but he wasn't exactly sitting around. My mom, Nory Garcia, has for a while been reading up on healthier ways to nourish him and how to get him moving without causing his body any undue stress.

These last two heart attacks never should have happened.

In hopes of never having to say that again, I've been sharing with my parents every wonderful thing I learn. Nutritionally, I have been schooled by our nutritionist, Su-Nui Escobar, on heart-healthy ways to eat. For example, get enough protein, but make sure it's the low-cholesterol kind (egg beaters, beans, grilled white meats). High-fiber foods like multi-grain bread and oatmeal are also excellent for the heart. And we have a chart encouraging us to incorporate all of the four food groups into every meal.

As a couple, David and I only concentrated on what we could do to lose weight. Our first lesson from Su-Nui: "Stop looking at your waistline. Concentrate on eating the things your body needs, such as fiber and protein, and the rest will fall into place." In other words, the fat will fall off our bellies. We have now lost 29.5 pounds combined. Our weights have fluctuated, but considering that we are smack dab in the middle of the holidays, I am proud!

These days, my mom will serve my dad a plate and glance over at me with a look that asks, "Is this OK?" She has also implemented David's best strategy -- portion control. (My mom, unlike me, already understood portion control. She just never enforced it with my dad.)

As family members watch us pushing each other through sets of push-ups, cardio and crunches, they marvel at our fortitude. I think they actually thought we were kidding when we started. Somebody actually said "Let's see how long this lasts."

Our extended family has even ventured over to American Top Team Doral and to The Little Gym to see what all the excitement is about. My parents enjoyed the visits. During my first training session, I heard my mother screaming, "Run, Forest, run!" Now you know how I turned out so well.

Those around us have watched our energy levels rise and the weight drop. They've also seen, as I shared in week 4, us come closer together as a family. David and I now chase our kids around, just 'cause we can. We're holding our whole family accountable, whether they want us to or not. I call my mom every night to make sure she and Daddy took a walk together.

Now, when my father comes over, I don't offer him Churros (a sweet, deep-fried dough) with condensed milk. I say, "Here is a bottle of water for you, Daddy. Would you like a salad with that?"

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.

How is the Quintana family doing? Check in on their progress!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.