Thursday, June 16, 2011

Honoring Healthy Lifestyles

I admit it, I have a pretty cool job. As Community Relations Manager at the New Hampshire Union Leader, I get to do a lot of things and meet a lot of interesting people. One of my all-time favorite perks of my jobs is that I get to make a difference.

I'm particularly proud of a recent partnership between the American Heart Association and the Union Leader to present the Lifestyle Change Award to a person in New Hampshire who has made changes toward a healthy lifestyle.

I was lucky enough to be part of the presentation at last night's Heart Walk and to introduce this year's 10 finalists. Each had done incredible and, to some, seemingly impossible things - several had lost more than 100 pounds, all of them had taken up exercise and better eating habits. In short, they had committed to a healthy lifestyle.

As I introduced the finalists last night, I looked out into the crowd of spectators. I hoped just one of these stories would inspire someone in that audience to make a change.

Below is a story that appeared in the New Hampshire Union Leader today covering last night's event. I encourage you to take a few moments read it.

People often assume that healthy, active people were always that way, that they've never known the "couch potato" lifestyle or have dealt with health scares. I think, more often than not, the opposite is true.

Kevin's story is truly touching and inspiring, and if just one person makes a change toward a healthier lifestyle, it was worth missing out on a bike ride on a near-perfect evening.

Walkers begin the Heart Walk outside Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Manchester Wednesday evening. MARK BOLTON/UNION LEADER

By TIM BUCKLAND, New Hampshire Union Leader

— Kevin Twombly knew he had to make some changes in his lifestyle when he suffered a stroke while putting his young daughter to bed one night a few years ago.

An active man through college, he stopped exercising as life got busier — work and family taking up the time that used to be spent jogging. He was diagnosed with high bloo
d pressure and high cholesterol at age 28. He ballooned to 255 pounds. He was just 32 went he suddenly experienced tunnel vision and numbness in his left arm and went to an emergency room, where he found out he’d suffered a stroke.

The Penacook man said he has no lasting effects from the stroke, but his rededication to exercise and healthy living — he started running half-marathons and is now an
avid bicyclist — earned him the Lifestyle Change Award, sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader and People’s United Bank, at Wednesday’s American Heart Association Heart Walk, for which the Union Leader was a media sponsor.

“I feel honored to be able to see that some changes I’ve made in my lifestyle are being recognized,” Twombly said after receiving the award. “I’m feeling great. I’m at 190 pounds now. I’m down to a 32-inch waist, which I haven’t been at since high school.”

Hundreds participated in the walk, which started at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, including heart disease survivors wearing red hats.

One of them was Ryan Champing, a junior at Windham High School who turned 17 on Monday and who has fully recovered from an enlarged heart and leaking mitral valve after two surgeries to repair her mitral valve and 22 blood infusions.

She now runs cross country on her high school track team.

“I feel fine,” she said. “I can run marathons now
. Before, I couldn’t even climb stairs.”

Kicking off the event was a motivational address by Craig Evans, who suffered a heart attack while refereeing a basketball game at Raymond High School on Jan. 24 and who lived because of an automatic external defibrillator.

His story was given coverage in the Union Leader and on television and radio stations and he now spends part of his time campaigning to have the portable devices placed in schools throughout New Hampshire.

(Story and photographs copyrighted by the Union Leader Corp.)

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