Wyoming raised me, and I am very proud of my roots. My platform as Miss Wyoming is to encourage other young women like me to pursue their unique dreams. As an entrepreneur, I own two businesses. Right before the pandemic hit, I started my first business, and my father suffered from what was called the "widow maker" heart attack the same year. Having been allowed to lead and make a difference, I knew I had to share my story with the American Heart Association.
hero_image_alt_text===Mackenzie Kern and her father
On Nov. 11, 2019, my then-employer was hosting an employee Christmas party when the phone rang for me. It was my aunt who called, so I knew something bad had happened. A car was waiting for me, and I was taken directly to the emergency room.
Once inside, I saw my dad, Toby, in hospital scrubs on a silver table right before they took him back to save his life. I remember my dad smiling and saying everything was going to be OK … a true Wyoming mentality.
While often aware of the consequences of bad health choices, not many make adjustments until after something life-threatening happens to themselves or someone they love.
I am very blessed to say my father is still with us. He was released from the hospital within three days after having a stent placed surgically. Since then, he has had to make a personal effort to reconstruct his lifestyle. Additionally, our family adapted our “normal” to match his needs, because that is what you do for the people you love.
We made simple adjustments, such as swapping out white rice for brown rice, eating grains in the morning instead of eggs and bacon, and even adding red wine because of its antioxidants and polyphenols, which protect blood vessel walls. His advice to others is to stay active for at least an hour a day. At 63, he has since committed to walking four miles a day, which is impressive. A heart-healthy lifestyle is so important and the sooner one realizes the impact health choices have on their future, the better.
I am proud of my dad for taking control of his life by making healthier choices. Many people in Wyoming are aware of what is referred to as the “rancher’s mentality,” where one feels as if going to the hospital is for the weak. My father was one of those people. Luckily, my mother was aware of warning signs like left arm pain, dizziness, and shortness of breath and was able to convince him to go to the ER.
Had my dad not made it to the hospital when he did, we could be living under very different circumstances. I remember telling him he needed to take this seriously because I needed him at my wedding, but truthfully, he is simply just my most prized possession.
Future blog posts will explore my journey with health and how this situation impacted my lifestyle choices, as well as the relationship of mental health to heart disease and ways you can join the fight against heart disease through advocacy. Education is the first step as we work toward a healthier society. Hopefully, the stories I share will help others in their journey to healthier lives.
I want to invite you to join me as an advocate with the American Heart Association. We all have the power to make a difference by speaking out for policies that help build healthier communities and healthier lives. For more than 40 years, You’re the Cure – the American Heart Association’s grassroots network – has been doing just that. Learn more and join HERE.
Until next time,
AHA Advocate & Your Miss Wyoming
Mackenzie Kern hails from Casper and is the reigning Miss Wyoming. She has previously represented Wyoming in Miss Teen USA and Miss USA. She will compete in January at the Miss America competition. Heart health is important to Mackenzie for a number of reasons, and she’ll share these in blogs over the course of the next couple of months.