On Wednesday evening, the entertainment world and Sopranos fans were shocked to receive the news that James Gandolfini had passed away. The 51-year-old's death, brought on by a massive heart attack, was untimely and is a reminder of the current nature of our health as a nation and how we must prioritize our physical and emotional well-being even through the stresses of our careers and every day life.
Every year, about one of every four deaths in the U.S. is caused by heart disease, making it the nation’s leading cause of death. Today, as the job market gets more competitive, the pace of life picks up, and careers for many generally become a fierce rat race, stress levels run high and it becomes easy for one to put health on the wayside. Pair this stress with sedentary lifestyles and cheap and quick meal choices that are wholly unfit for our caloric limits and we have created for ourselves a mega public health dilemma.
Though one can chose not to consume unhealthy foods and can also opt for a more active lifestyle, making these choices takes the effort that many, for various reasons, may not prioritize or put forth. As a person who is a stress eater, it was during times when I had the most daunting tasks to complete and the biggest deadlines that I would often binge and sleep excessively in an attempt to rid my mind of the clouds that seemed to surround it. However, by getting less exercise and eating foods packed with empty calories, I only became more lethargic and fell into a cycle in which I gained large amounts of weight quickly and felt increasingly less alert and less motivated and became more mentally fatigued.
It was not until a few months ago, after I had gone through a particularly stressful period that I allowed my diet to get out of control and gained around 10 pounds in three months, that I realized I had to change. I always prioritized school over my health, sitting at the computer sometimes all day studying or reading. I thought I was doing myself a favor but was I ever wrong.
If one does not have good health, how does expect to have the option of living a happy and long life? After being overweight for a long time, losing weight at the end of high school, and gaining most of it back again, I realized that my eating habits and lifestyle were evidently terrible and a product of my mindset.
Sure, I got accepted into Harvard after working hard on my academics but I realized that as I get older, what will my hard work even amount to if I am unhealthy and feel miserable? At my heaviest, I weighed 170 pounds which for my 5’1” frame was a depressing and frightening wake up call. I do not want to become part of a heart-disease or obesity statistic and only live to half of my maximum lifespan and surely no one does. Now that I am at a healthier weight, I am in a much better state both physically and mentally. Managing stress is difficult for me but given that stress lies at the root of many health problems, not taking life too seriously or becoming fixated on small things has proven to be worthwhile.
Whether one struggles with their health because of genetic reasons, unbalanced workaholic mindsets, or other personal reasons, one must recognize that by denying ones elf a healthy lifestyle, one is in turn denying his or herself life. Gandolfini, like many, suffered a death that could have been avoided, but as we celebrate his life and contribution to media, we must look towards our own lives and ask ourselves if we are doing enough for our own personal health.