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Heart to Heart Helps Sullivan Man Reshape His Life

Program offers opportunity to have several cardiopulmonary screens that may reveal life-threatening diseases.

January 28, 2013 11:43 a.m.

Like many, Tony Nicholson gained weight during the winter months last year.

While in previous years he didn’t have much trouble losing the extra weight in the spring, this time it wasn’t coming off easily. With a history of blood clot problems and a family history of heart disease, Nicholson knew he needed to do something about it.

He enrolled in Heart to Heart at Sarah Bush Lincoln to learn his risk factors for developing heart disease. Though he considers himself healthy, Nicholson started noticing more aches and pains in addition to the weight gain. He has also suffered life-threatening blood clots on three separate occasions, usually developing them following an injury. Three years ago, he underwent a cardiac catheterization at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield to help remove a clot that was threatening his heart. In addition, his mother has survived two heart attacks.

Heart to Heart offers men and women an opportunity to have several cardiopulmonary screens performed that may reveal potentially life-threatening diseases. It is designed to increase participants’ awareness of their health risks and to teach techniques that can help them avoid heart disease becoming a part of their lives.

“Heart to Heart certainly helped me get back on track,” Nicholson said. “I’m a typical male. I don’t go to the doctor unless something is wrong. The program is an excellent way to find out where you’re at and what you need to work on.” He learned that his bad cholesterol was too high and his good cholesterol was too low and he could benefit from making a few lifestyle changes. It motivated him to lose weight.

Nicholson began exercising more, starting an exercise routine each morning and walking a mile or more two or three times a week. He also adjusted his eating habits. “I was eating healthy before, I was just eating too much,” Nicholson said. “I was raised that you eat what’s on your plate and that’s what I did.”

“Being able to say no to food was the most difficult part for me,” he added. “My biggest problem was discipline and I didn’t have it.” Working in security at Sarah Bush Lincoln, he sought guidance from the Health Center’s worksite wellness program. “It helps to have someone to turn to for information and support,” he said, crediting the assistance he received from Wellness Specialist Katie Chancellor.

It wasn’t long before the weight started coming off. Keeping track of his food intake, exercise and weight on a chart at home, he became more and more motivated with each pound he lost. “Once you get on a roll, it starts getting easier,” he said adding that his aches and pains started going away once he started losing weight.

He lost 48 pounds in 53 days, increasing his exercise routine from leisurely one-mile walks to brisk five-mile walks. “People started noticing and asking me how I lost weight,” he said. “It was easier than I anticipated. I didn’t change what I ate. I just reduced the amount.” Nicholson said his cholesterol is now in a healthy range and his blood pressure is super.

“I feel good about myself. I didn’t set out to be thin. I just want to be healthy,” he said. “The Heart to Heart program is good for anyone that wants to gain a clear picture of their health status, and get a jump start at making lifestyle changes,” program coordinator Karyn Cole said. “By knowing your numbers, you can better assess your risk for heart disease—and protect yourself before it's too late.”

More than 27 million Americans have heart disease, which is the leading killer of both men and women. The American Heart Association recommends that adults more than 40 know their risk factors which include smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, being overweight or obese, physical inactivity and a family history of heart disease.

For more information about Heart to Heart, call Karyn Cole, program coordinator, at (217) 258-2238.

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