Sarah D: When death comes knocking, don't answer!

File this one under, Do as I say, not as I do.

Aren TMt we all guilty of that sometimes? But in this case, ignoring common wisdom turned deadly.

Just before Christmas, 63-year-old Gary Chapman was out clearing his driveway of snow. Apparently, his chest started bothering him. He went inside, sat in his favorite recliner, turned on his favorite show, The Price Is Right and died. Just like that. Without warning--no, that TMs not true. Gary TMs body was warning him, he just didn TMt listen.

He could still be here, still watching his grandchildren play ball if he TMd just been more careful, says Gary TMs daughter Cindy Heibel of Hannibal.

Cindy TMs mom, Cheryl Chapman, had just died three weeks before. Read that story here. The unexpected loss of her father was crushing.

In Gary TMs case, it must have been a matter of it can TMt happen to me. That TMs the only way Cindy can rationalize her dad out working in the snow on that bitterly cold day in Utah.

Gary had heart disease . Fifteen years before, he TMd undergone quadruple bypass surgery. He had a family history"big time. Both his parents died of heart attacks. Seven of the nine siblings in his family have heart disease. He was built like a fireplug. If you put a checklist next to the symptoms of heart disease , Gary could have checked off just about every one.

We TMve all heard the warnings about snow shoveling and heart attacks . The Centers for Disease Control estimates the rate of heart attacks increase 20-percent after a big snow. And yet, people at risk continue to shovel. It TMs not all that surprising|we often do things we know are bad for us: smokers continue to smoke, we don TMt floss like we know we should, etc. etc. etc.

In Gary TMs case, he had recently gotten a clean bill of health from his doctor, though he had mentioned some chest pains to his family. He was also using a snow blower, which is less physically demanding than a shovel. Cindy figures her dad thought it would be OK. He only plowed a couple small strips before he went inside.

The cold can mask the symptoms of a heart attack. A person will often write off the shortness of breath and arm pain to the heavy work of shoveling. The cold itself is harmful to someone who has heart disease . It constricts the arteries and causes the heart to work harder. Pile that on top of exertion, and you TMve put yourself at dangerous risk.

Cindy TMs brother found their dad dead in his favorite chair. Her brother went to check on him because Gary didn TMt show up for his grandson TMs ballgame. Gary had never missed a ballgame. Now he TMll never see another one.

Maybe Gary TMs time was just up|that happens. I mean, maybe it was his day to go, no matter the weather or the work ahead of him. We TMll never know. But his story and his family TMs pain remind us to take care of our hearts for the ones we love.

By the way, February is Heart Month .

Take care ~Sarah