There's a big push this month across the country for awareness about heart health, and for me that gets personal. Heart disease killed one person in my family and almost got another.  Don't let it happen to you.

I remember eating dinner with my grandparents growing up in Nebraska, and although my grandma was a great cook and it was always delicious, there was always something on the plate that could probably clog an artery.  My grandparents ate meat and potatoes about five times a week, had desserts after every meal, had sodium-packed canned foods hidden among the layers of a casserole, and ate lots and lots of fried chicken.  And I think I saw my grandpa spread butter on an Oreo once before he ate it.  My mom cooked a little lighter, but no one in my family was afraid of calories, sugar, sodium, fat, or gluten back then.  My grandpa also smoked.

When I was a junior in high school and my grandpa was in his 60's, my dad got a phone call saying my grandpa had been rushed to the hospital in a nearby town.  By the time my dad got there he had had a heart attack, and then he was rushed again to a bigger hospital about three hours away for emergency bypass surgery.  He made it to that hospital, but his heart failed during surgery, and he died right there in the operating room.  Before that day, I had only seen my dad cry one time, and that was at his brother's funeral two years earlier.  Losing his father was even tougher.

Four years after that, my dad would end up in the hospital, with an artery that was 90 percent blocked.  He had a balloon procedure to clear the blockage, and thankfully he made it through that operation just fine.  He started exercising more, making healthier food choices, and continued with cardiology follow-ups.  Now my dad is around the same age that my grandfather was when he died, and my dad has a clean bill of health.  Hallelujah!

What does American Heart Month mean to you?  To me, it means gratitude.  I'm thankful that my dad has changed his life and that doctors caught his health issues in time.  And that he's here to watch my three daughters grow up.  And it means discipline.  It's not always easy to make the right choices, but it sure does make a huge difference if we pick long-term good health over instant gratification.

How does American Heart Month inspire you?