Local Participants Selected for Lifestyle Change Health Challenge

For the first time in the Buffalo region, the American Heart Association will conduct the Lifestyle Change Challenge, an innovative initiative that will chronicle the journey toward meaningful lifestyle changes that improves heart health for nine local participants. The 12-week Challenge, sponsored by Leading Edge Performance and Independent Nursing Care, is designed to remind us all to make simple lifestyle choices every day that will have a significant impact on our overall cardiovascular health.

The selected participants for the Challenge were introduced at a kick-off event at Body Blocks Fitness of Williamsville this morning. Using the American Heart Association’s My Life Check heart disease assessment tool, the groups’ collective heart score was 6.5/10 which indicates the group has some significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease that needs improvement. Their stories will be chronicled in blogs, at www.buffaloniagaraheartwalk.org and in local media. Their success will be celebrated at the 20th anniversary of Heart Walk on September 13, 2014.

We were delighted to have so many applicants for the program. The stories of our neighbors really create a broad picture of the health and life challenges we face,” said Marie Achkar, American Heart Association volunteer coach. “I know they will be an inspiration to us all throughout the 12 weeks.”

Each participant will receive an individualized walking plan, a baseline medical evaluation from Independent Nursing Care, pedometers, healthy cooking resources, breakfast with a doctor, bi-weekly coaching sessions, smoking cessation help if needed, and other value-added opportunities. Each participant will be invited to their own Facebook community, have the opportunity to join a walking club, take a food shopping field trip, and write about their progress on the local American Heart Association blog to chronicle their journey.

“We invite the community to access the tools and resources that are available from the American Heart Association to receive the same great heart-health information, expert tips, recipes, and customized activity trackers and plans at www.startwalkingnow.org,” said Dr. Glenna Bett, American Heart Association advisory board president. “Our goal is to make heart health a priority for Western New Yorkers.”

Heart disease is the leading killer of Western New Yorkers and all Americans. However, research shows that 80 percent of cardiac events are preventable with simple lifestyle choices involving diet, exercise and smoking.

The Lifestyle Change Challenge 12-week program and officially begins April 7th  and runs through June 27th at which point participants will be fundraising and getting their teams together for the 20th anniversary of the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk this fall.

Meet the Lifestyle Change Challenge participants:

Row 1; Mary Sullivan, Kelly Rummings, Angela Strough Row 2; Denise Ellsworth, Catherine Barth, Joseph Cannamela and Joni Libglid Not pictured: Marsha Jackson, PhD, Janine McKenzie
Row 1; Mary Sullivan, Kelly Rummings, Angela Strough Row 2; Denise Ellsworth, Catherine Barth, Joseph Cannamela and Joni Libglid
Not pictured: Marsha Jackson, PhD, Janine McKenzie

Catherine Barth, Clarence:
At 61 years old, our first participant knows she needs to make some changes in her life. Catherine has been diagnosed with aFib which puts her at risk for heart attack and stroke. She also suffers from high blood pressure and is carrying some extra weight that she would like to take off.  She’s so thrilled to be part of the program and is ready to take charge of her health.

Joseph Cannemela, Amherst:
Three years ago, Joseph underwent double bypass surgery, an aortic valve replacement, and received a pacemaker. As a 66 year-old survivor, Joseph knows that if he wants to watch his grandchildren grow, he needs to make some lifestyle changes and take care of his fixed heart.

Denise Ellsworth, Kenmore:
Denise knows the small choices she makes every day will have a big impact on her health – she just needs to make the right ones! Denise suffers from high cholesterol and a family history of heart disease. At 51 years-old, she wants to be a role model for her family and even feel comfortable in shorts again this summer!

Marsha Jackson, PhD, Buffalo:
Marsha is ready to put herself first! Like so many women, she finds herself taking care of everyone around her and pushing her needs aside. As a 55-year old diabetic, she also knows her heart health is critical and is ready to form habits that will last a lifetime.

Joni Libglid, Buffalo:
The ailments that plague Joni have really gotten her spirits down. Suffering from diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, excess weight, and inactivity, she’s thrilled to be part of the Lifestyle Change Challenge. She’s looking forward to working with the other participants and is hopeful that together, they will all build confidence and achieve their health goals.

Janine McKenzie, Lancaster:
As a busy mom of three, 37-year old Janine finds her weight fluctuating and making poor eating choices. She wants to get on track once and for all and show her children what healthy looks like.

Kelly Rummings, Getzville:
Kelly is a two-time heart attack survivor, but when she experienced her second heart attack AFTER losing 25 pounds and working out at least three times a week, she became very discouraged. Kelly found it hard to keep her motivation and gained some of the weight back. She has a great support system and wants to set a good example; showing that we can win this fight against cardiovascular disease.

Angela Strough, Lewiston:
Angela is desperate to change her lifestyle. She smokes, has a strong family history, is diabetic and has six stents in place. She does not want to become a statistic and knows she’s on that track unless she makes some changes. At 45-years old, she has a long life ahead of her and is giving 100% to changing her heart health.

Mary Sullivan, Kenmore:
Mary is approaching her 50th birthday this year and plans to run her first 5K at the Heart Walk! She is currently not on medication for her high blood pressure and cholesterol and wants to do her best to avoid it with lifestyle changes and inspire her family.

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