It's Never too Late to Change Health Habits

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MADISON - Alice Huebner is living proof that it's never too late to make a change.


After suffering two heart incidents at the age of 88, Huebner decided to take charge of her life and began exercising seven days a week and eating seven or more fruits and vegetables a day.


Now, at the age of "90 and a half" Huebner lives on her own and attributes all of her success to the changes she has made.

"I really do enjoy living," said Huebner. "I'm still enjoying every moment."


A Life Changing Event

It was only two years ago, however, that Huebner experienced a heart incident that could have cut her life short.


Huebner was moving out of her house of 53 years when she began to feel exhausted and was having trouble breathing. Within an hour her daughter called an ambulance and Huebner was at the hospital.

Huebner had experienced a pulmonary edema - fluid had accumulated in the lungs because her heart was no longer strong enough to pump it out. Heubner's only obvious risk factors were high blood pressure and Type II diabetes.

But Huebner's doctors found four major blockages in her arteries, including two arteries that were 95 percent blocked. Each artery received a stent (a mesh-like tube to keep the artery open). A few days after Huebner's release from the hospital, she felt exhausted again. Once again, she was admitted to the hospital but doctors could not find a reason for the second incident. Huebner left the hospital in a wheelchair.

"I never thought it could happen to me, it just came on so suddenly," said Huebner. "I got home and said, I am not going to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair."


Attitude is Everything

Huebner began working with UW Hospital's Cardiac Rehabilitation program under the supervision of Vonda Shaw, an exercise physiologist. Huebner started exercising each day and attending cardiac rehabilitation classes three times a week. She also changed her diet to eliminate sweets and emphasize fruits and vegetables. Today, Huebner walks 40 minutes a day and lifts weights.

"I even work out on Sunday morning before church," said Huebner. "I feel very strongly that exercise has made a difference in my life."

Huebner has seen great improvement in her health in just a little over two years. She lowered her cholesterol to 120 and has also lowered her blood pressure to an ideal level.

"I'm still driving and living on my own," says Huebner, who is spending the summer at her cabin on Medicine Lake near Three Lakes. "I cook, socialize, read and just try to stay busy."

Huebner believes that attitude is everything when it comes to healing and life in general. "I have lived a long time and enjoy everyday. What life means to you and your attitude is important," said Huebner.

To those who are experiencing heart related issues, especially those who are having a difficult time, Huebner offers this advice: "It's so important to have hope in your life. I think hope, and making up your mind to do something, are so important. Don't give up because as long as you're alive there is hope."

Know Your Risks, Take Action

Alice Huebner's heart problems snuck up on her, but life-threatening heart conditions, whether it's coronary artery disease or aortic aneurysm, don't have to be stealth killers. Not if you take action first.

Begin by making sure you know your numbers, specifically, your cholesterol levels and your blood pressure, and also your family's health history. Make an appointment with your primary care physician to get tested, or watch for free health care screenings in your area.

Date Published: 07/16/2009

News tag(s):  food and nutrition

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