March 4 marks the one-year anniversary since The Mountaineer, in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, lost its editor Brian Mazza. Brian died suddenly of undiagnosed coronary artery disease. Brian was my editor, boss and friend, whose death I am still grieving, whose loss is still a blow to Rocky and, I believe, to the journalistic community. Brian didn't just work as a journalist. He ate and breathed journalism. He was a community journalist and the community saw him as theirs. It was a mutual relationship of trust, respect and a great deal of joy. Brian believed in the fundamentals of community journalism, of its value and importance within a community that cannot be replaced by a daily paper or online news. He didn't just work at being a journalist - he was a journalist. And even after a lifetime in the industry (he cut his teeth at The Mountaineer, owned by his parents and later by him and his siblings), his attitudes never became entrenched or stagnant. One of his most fundamental beliefs in his role as an owner and editor of a weekly was that it was not his job or that of his reporters to be the maintainers of the status quo. Rather, within the realm of good taste, he saw our role as community journalists as one of testing and pushing the boundaries of the community and gauging the changes to the community's morality - almost like a morality barometer. He didn't believe in sensationalizing news, but did believe that as community journalists, we have a vital role in raising serious questions and issues and encouraging community dialogue. Brian's death was tragic not simply because he was so young, just a few months shy of his 47th birthday, but because it was so sudden. He took care of his health, exercised and watched what he ate. Besides some persistent indigestion a few days before his death, there were no symptoms. After Brian died, I did a number of articles on heart health for both men and women. February is also heart health month. Therefore, in memory of Brian and in the hopes that a reminder might make the difference for someone, here are a few things to remember and a few resources that might come in handy.
The chance of Canadian women dying of heart disease and stroke is equal to men. In fact, each year more women than men die of stroke. In 2003, 8,951 women died of stroke compared to 6,332 men. Part of the reason for that is not enough women nor their family members recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke despite annual education campaigns. Women experience strokes differently than men, so it's important to be aware of those differences. Smoking, being overweight, not exercising enough, diabetes, stress, alcohol and drugs are also contributors to heart disease. However, there are other factors beyond a person's control such as age, gender and family history of heart disease. Besides eating a heart healthy diet, being physically active, having moderate drinking habits and not smoking, people should make sure they get regular check-ups. Take the time to inform yourself about heart disease and know your particular risk factors.
The time spent is well worth the extra time alive.
For more information about heart and stroke and what you can do, check out the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation at www.heartandstroke.com, the Canadian Health Network at www.canadian-health-network.ca and the Canadian Cardio-vascular Society at www.ccs.ca.