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A healthy change

Small changes can make a big difference. This Thursday the American Heart Association will honor individuals who take simple, but meaningful steps toward a healthier lifestyle. The Lifestyle Change Award recognizes those who have taken control of...

Lee Jensen

Small changes can make a big difference. This Thursday the American Heart Association will honor individuals who take simple, but meaningful steps toward a healthier lifestyle. The Lifestyle Change Award recognizes those who have taken control of their health in such areas as weight loss, exercise habits, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and stress management. The Forum asked four of the nominees to share their stories.

Rick Wagar

Age: 44

Address: Fargo

Occupation: Purchasing manager for Network Center Inc., Fargo.


Baseline: Weighed 225 pounds. Couch potato. Smoked a half-pack of cigarettes each day.

Motivation for change: His older brother died of complications from a stroke. His brother, who was 53, was overweight.

Lifestyle change: Runs five days a week. Bikes or walks to work daily (five miles

round-trip). Quit smoking. Eats foods such as Boca (meatless) burgers instead of beef.

Results: Lost 50 pounds.

No longer needs medication for depression or allergies.

How he does it: Started training for the 2006 Fargo Marathon. Sent an e-mail to family members telling them he was committed to the race so they'd hold him accountable. Now training for a 50-mile ultramarathon.

In his own words: "I know I need to keep pushing myself, or I'll get lazy again. My brother would have died in vain if I turn around and go back to who I was."


Future goals: To qualify for the Boston Marathon. Train for triathlons.

Advice: A small change every day adds up to a changed life. You don't have to run a 5K or a marathon to be healthy. Just get moving.

Greg Hahn

Age: 56

Address: Fargo

Occupation: Jeweler and appraiser at Royal Jewelers, Fargo

Baseline: Weighed 260 pounds. LDL (bad cholesterol) was 150. Smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. Ate doughnuts for breakfast.

Motivation for change: He had a heart attack and a quintuple heart bypass in 2003.


Lifestyle change: Eats low-fat and nonfat foods. Exercises for two hours a day, five days a week. Quit smoking.

Results: Lost 95 pounds. LDL is now 56. Increased lung capacity.

How he does it: Eats lots of fish, chicken and vegetables. Lifts weights for an hour and runs about four miles a day. Since his heart attack, he has logged nearly 5,700 miles of running. Never skips a meal.

In his own words: "When they crack your chest open and you wake up, there's no way to describe the pain you feel. That's a wake-up call the hard way."

Future goals: To continue lifting weights and complete a triathlon.

Advice: It's easier to make lifestyle changes before your health forces you to do it.

Lee Jensen

Age: 55


Address: Fargo

Occupation: Administrative assistant for Trane in Fargo.

Baseline: Weighed 280 pounds. Diabetes. High cholesterol.

Motivation for change: Doctors found precancerous cells in her colon and removed the organ in 2003. The following year, doctors diagnosed her with Type 2 diabetes. Last February she became a grandmother.

Lifestyle change: Walks every day. Reduces food portions and limits carbohydrates.

Results: Lost 65 pounds. No longer takes medications for Type 2 diabetes. Lowered her cholesterol.

How she does it: Walks daily with a friend and participates in her company's employee health program. This spring she led her company's Start! Walking at Work Day, an event founded by the American Health Association.

In her own words: "I will probably never be a size 12, but I can be healthy. You can't worry about the numbers."


Future goal: To lose 25 more pounds.

Advice: Don't give up, and don't let the scale dictate your happiness. Find somebody to support and encourage you.

Bill Kollitz

Age: 56

Address: Moorhead

Occupation: Contracting officer for federal government.

Baseline: Weighed 250 pounds. High blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose.

Motivation for change: His family practice physician urged him to lose weight for years. In January 2006 Bill's doctor told him his back hurt because of the excess weight and referred him to a bariatric physician.


Lifestyle change: Eats fewer than 100 grams of carbohydrates each day. Works out at home with an exercise ball three times a week. Walks outside when it's warm.

Results: Lost 75 pounds within eight months. Lowered his cholesterol and blood sugar. No longer takes medication for high blood pressure.

How he does it: Drinks a protein shake for breakfast and lunch. Walks with his wife, Mary, when it's warm. Weighs himself daily.

In his own words: "An alcoholic can quit drinking, but I have to keep eating. Watching what I eat is a challenge every day."

Future goals: To maintain his weight.

Advice: Keep trying to find a diet until you find one that works for you. Once you find one that fits, it's relatively easy.

Lee Jensen

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