Three days before his first marathon, Keith Schroth was not anxious about finishing the 26.2-mile run. As far as he was concerned, he’d already overcome a major challenge.

For 20 years, the 57-year-old had lived with high blood pressure and in January 2013 his doctor wanted to increase his medication.

Schroth made a decision right then to change his life by exercising regularly and eating healthy.

He first changed his diet. He never starved. He ate the same amount, but made healthy choices. As a New Orleans resident, Schroth was frequently tempted, but learned to resist.

He cut out fats, most sugar and fried foods. He limits red meats, but eats a lot of New Orleans fare — shrimp, crab, crawfish, potatoes and rice.

Importantly, he still enjoyed his food.

“Now that I have my lifestyle changed, I do treat myself,” Schroth said, “but it’s once in a blue moon.”

His success resulted in some core believes about healthy eating that coincide with the heart-healthy diet recommended by the American Heart Association. The AHA recommends meals that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, and fish. Choosing products low in saturated and trans fats can also help with cholesterol levels.

In addition to healthier eating, exercise and weight loss played a big part in helping Schroth control his blood pressure, which he regularly checks with his doctor at Ochsner Medical Center or at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, where he is the associate dean of fiscal affairs.

He had always done some form of exercise, but he decided it was time to be consistent with his regime. He now runs 30 to 40 miles every week — usually in the early morning with his wife, Leslie, and their dog Boots — and he works on his abdomen muscles six days a week.

Even running the marathon was never really Schroth’s goal. It was always about physical fitness.

His goal wasn’t really to lose weight either, although his healthier habits resulted in a 30–pound weight loss.

Over time, the changes to his lifestyle changed his life. He no longer needs to take medications to control his blood pressure and cholesterol.

A 10mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 50 percent. Lowering blood pressure can also reduce the risk of stroke, kidney damage, erectile dysfunction, memory loss, vision loss and damage to the heart and coronary arteries.

“I don’t do a lot of races,” he said. “I just want to stay fit and be around for my three sons. Running the marathon was secondary.”