A family history of heart disease scared Meliah Bowers Jefferson into adopting a strict diet and exercise journey at 25. But despite her positive lifestyle changes, she suffered a massive heart attack. Now two years into recovery, the young mother reflects on taking control of her health.
As told to Tiffany Walden
My older sister had her first heart attack in 2004 at age 34 when I was in my final year of law school. That was a real wake-up call. My father already had two stents in his heart and so did my older brother. He was also on blood pressure medication. My sister suffered a second heart attack in 2007 and a third in 2013, prompting her triple bypass surgery. In addition, everybody in my family was—and still is—obese.
I vowed not to have the same fate. Heart disease wasn’t going to happen to me, so at 25, I made a lot of changes. At the time, I weighed 235 pounds and wore a size 20 clothing. I started going to the gym four times a week. In a little less than a year, I dropped 70 pounds. I also went on a low-fat diet, cutting out red meat, pork, fried foods and cheese, which was met with resistance from my Southern family. They’re the type of people who’d say, “You need to eat,” if I got down to a size 10. Essentially, they felt I was depriving myself of the foods I loved.
But despite everything I did, heart disease still caught up with me.
It was April 2013, shortly after my daughter, Ryan, celebrated her first birthday. I had felt strange, so I stayed home from work and took cold medication. That evening, I took a shower; when I got out, however, I could barely walk and had cold sweats. My husband, Ashante, took me to the emergency room.
Read more in the February 2016 issue of EBONY Magazine.