A happy ending for the Her Heart Challenge

Back in September, we introduced you to the brave group of women who would pioneer the Parkview Heart Institute’s new Her Heart Challenge program. Each participant had a different story, a different motivation and different goals, but, as we discovered, they shared a fierce ambition for change.

“The entire program exceeded any preconceived expectation I had,” Leah Felger, program coordinator, Parkview Heart Institute said. “Truly, this is the first time in my life I have seen a group of women come together and simply accept one another in such a positive way. The goal for our team was to create a program that presented evidence-based information in a way that met each woman where she was. We wanted them to have each other to lean on, but at the same time make it personal.” 

Each participant came to the challenge with different risk factors, some with multiple issues. “We worked quite a bit on helping them set their own SMART goals; Instead of just saying I’m going to lose 10 pounds, we had them consider how they were going to do it,” Leah said. “As we worked through how they set goals, some of the things they wanted to get out of the program changed. To quit drinking pop, to get 10,000 steps in, to lower cholesterol, to manage portions, to lower glucose levels, to increase mobility. Their goals evolved into a commitment to take care of themselves by making lifestyle changes. As the weeks went on, I began to notice a palpable change in the group. They asked direct, educated questions of the presenters, they were getting past long-held barriers, they were trying new things and sharing what worked and what didn’t. They were connected because they were all moving toward a common purpose to make lifestyle changes to get healthy and stay healthy. 

In the end, what they were able to accomplish didn’t surprise me. I knew they were doing the work and that we would see it in their outcomes. Still, to see literally everyone in the group end up with an improvement in some aspect was amazing,” Leah said. 

After their final weigh ins and set of screenings, the women had proof of their efforts.

82.2 pounds lost
32.5 inches lost
25/27 improvement in cholesterol ratio
4 out of 5 participants had an improvement on their A1C

One participant, who noted a 40-pound weight loss and dropped three dress sizes, credited simply walking and being active. She gets steps in even if she is just pacing the kitchen while making dinner.

With such rewarding numbers, it’s hard to pinpoint the most impressive achievement, though Leah does have some ideas. “That we really did it! We used to sit around and wonder how we would put this group together. It was important to us that each woman was different, unique. But what really blew me away was when one of the women repeated our vision back to me as reality. She said, ‘Leah, I don’t know how you got this group together, but it is amazing.’ That validated everything. We didn’t lay out a specific calorie limit or diet or hyperactive exercise plan. We gave everyone the tools and information they needed to develop their own plan to meet their goals. They asked questions, they talked about new recipes and opportunities to get active and they made changes that fit into their lives. And it worked!”
 she said.

When we’re talking about numbers, the most important ones to know are these: 1 in 3 women die of heart disease every year, but it’s 80 percent preventable.  There is no other magic number. It’s not just your weight, cholesterol, glucose or A1C. Prevention is about managing a healthy lifestyle overall. 

Be part of our next group! Watch for recruitment information, coming this spring. 

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