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Challenge changes women’s lives

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The Go Red for Women campaign is a movement that won’t cease until heart disease and stroke is eliminated. Greatly surpassing all cancers, heart disease is the No. 1 killer for women over the age of 25.

African-Americans are at greater risk for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases than their white counterparts. High blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Unfortunately the prevalence of hypertension in Blacks in the U.S. is among the highest in the world, and its increasing.

One of the newest elements in their fight against these diseases is the BetterU Heart Health Makeover Challenge. The 12-week challenge has been changing women’s lives nationwide and has finally found it’s way to Indianapolis.

“Ultimately our goal is to inspire women to make small lifestyle changes that can make a big impact,” said Allison Holmes, Go Red for Women luncheon director.

The American Heart Association Midwest Affiliate in conjunction with St. Vincent Heart Center of Indiana choose five local women that vary in age, personality, ethnicity and health issues to take part in the challenge. Of over 125 applicants emerged Kimila Brown, Ruth Holladay, Dee Leonard, Amy Magan and Jessica Woodson.

Holmes states each woman will address their own unique health obstacles that include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, undesirable body mass index (BMI) readings, weight, lack of physical activity and smoking.

Participants receive online support from Go Red BetterU and will work with a cardiologist and nutritionists to assist them on the road to ultimate health.

Additionally, the BetterU five will meet regularly with a personal trainer at Life Time Fitness and as an added bonus, receive skin treatments and will wear Macy’s apparel at a fashion show during the Indianapolis Go Red For Women Luncheon on Feb. 26.

Go Red for Women has taken a comprehensive approach to health.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into getting these women to think about how everything they do affects their heart. We also want them to feel great on the outside. It lifts their self esteem and is encouraging,” said Holmes.

What makes each of the Indianapolis BetterU challenge participants unique is that they all represent different age groups and live completely different lifestyles.

A great example of BetterU’s diversity is Leonard, who is 26 years old. Although she isn’t the typical age where one thinks about heart disease, Leonard states hypertension and high cholesterol runs in her family. Most would say her diet and exercise routine is fair, but she decided to join the challenge to develop a habit of consistency in her diet and exercise.

“You’re never too young to pay attention to the things women go through,” said Leonard. “This has been a wonderful opportunity.”

This challenge also calls for the women to blog about their experiences of facing their health issues. The public can visit www.indygoredbetteru.blogspot.com and follow the women on their journey through the program.

Unlike Leonard, Woodson’s course with health has been more of a roller coaster. Instances such as her father passing away from heart disease, several emergency room visits of her own, blood pressure medicine and battles with her weight caused Woodson to finally want to take a stand against her bad health habits. The self-proclaimed snacker with a sweet tooth and nonexistent exercise regimen also has sleep apnea, which further complicates her health. She receives additional treatment for her sleep apnea.

“I really am scared with all my issues. I’m also tired of going around the same mountain. There are things in life I still want to do,” said Woodson.

The 49-year old has been overweight her entire life and states she “doesn’t want to be the girl with the cute face” anymore. Go Red for Women statistics state among Black women age 20 and older, 79.6 percent are overweight or obese.

Woodson is very pleased with her progress thus far particularly the exercise routine. She is also proud that she has developed a habit of eating lean, healthy foods.

Others will see the difference Leonard, Woodson and the three other challengers have made on the inside and out. They are almost at the peak of the challenge and have greatly improved their health. The challengers are healthier, happier, more empowered women. Holmes hopes the public follows the examples of the BetterU five and begin a challenge of their own.

For more information, call (317) 873-3640 or visit www.choosetomove.org, www. americanheart.org.

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