February is American Heart Month, a month dedicated to raising awareness about the leading cause of death among men and women in America- heart disease. Boston Heart’s registered dietitian coach, Caitlin Quinn Dunn, shares how heart disease has impacted her life in the blog below.

The first time I realized food was connected to health was when I was eight years old. I was enjoying an ice cream with my grandparents, and as my grandfather was about to take a bite, my grandmother told him he couldn’t have any. I was confused about why an adult wouldn’t be allowed to eat what he wanted. I thought that only happened to kids! What I didn’t realize, was that my grandfather, at the age of 60, was recovering from his fourth heart attack. My father later told me he remembers coming home from school and seeing my grandfather being put into the ambulance when he had his first heart attack at the age of 40. When my grandfather died of heart disease two years later, I was in the fifth grade, and learned in health class that heart attacks can be caused by an unhealthy diet. While the explanation was oversimplified, that’s the exact moment I became interested in nutrition. I was fascinated with the idea that we could have some control over our health just by choosing certain foods. While most fifth graders were showing off their science fair projects of volcanoes or mice in mazes, I was demonstrating atherosclerosis with bacon grease in a test tube.

While my grandfather was the first person in my life that I lost to heart disease, my maternal grandfather died of a heart attack at the age of 48, leaving behind his wife and eight small children. Heart disease has had a major impact on my family, and as I continued through middle and high school my interest in being able to help people prevent this disease continued to grow. I was thrilled to discover that I could get a degree in nutrition to become a registered dietitian and make a career out of helping people change their habits so that they could be there for their families.

My goal with each person I work with is not just to get them to identify changes they can make to their diet or exercise regime, but to help them discover why making those difficult changes is worth it. Each of the registered dietitian coaches at Boston Heart Diagnostics are dedicated to helping their patients discover the true reasons they want to improve their health.

So this February, take time to reflect on your heart health and think of the reasons you might want to make changes to your lifestyle. My family history as well as watching my loved one’s struggle with the impact of heart disease gave me not just the motivation to keep my own lifestyle as healthy as possible, but to work with other people daily to do the same. If you feel you could benefit from working with a Boston Heart coach they can help you identify your risk factors and uncover your reasons to change. While change is difficult, tapping into what truly motivates you to become healthier will make all your sacrifices worth it.