By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS


Joyce Hobbs progessionShivering outside on her deck to have a cigarette in January 1990, Joyce Hobbs decided she’d had enough.

She was 29, and she’d been smoking since she was 13. It was time to quit.

She dropped the habit cold turkey, a major step in protecting herself from heart disease. However, she replaced one unhealthy habit with another.

“I was constantly eating,” said Hobbs, who lives in Hibbing, Minnesota. “I’d eat a whole bag of pretzels or licorice and tell myself it was OK because they were fat-free.”

Juggling work and sports schedules for two kids, the family often ate fast food and pizza.

Hobbs always felt tired. She quit playing softball simply running to first base left her exhausted. Her diet obviously was catching up to her, although she admits, “I was in denial.”

“When my jeans wouldn’t fit, I bought sweat pants,” she said, “and when they wouldn’t fit, I bought bigger ones.”

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When Hobbs went in for her annual physical in 2010, her weight had reached 240 pounds – about 100 too many for her small frame. Her blood pressure was elevated.

Those factors put her at high risk for heart disease. So did the fact she had a family history.

“My doctor told me I was a ticking time bomb, and needed to do something about it,” she said.

So just like her snap decision to quit smoking, Hobbs vowed to get healthy.

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She and her husband Doug swore off fast food and other junk food and added more vegetables to the family’s diet. To avoid temptation, she threw out her fryer and stopped buying chips and ice cream, a decision that wasn’t popular with her kids.

The couple borrowed an elliptical machine from her sister-in-law and took the laundry off the treadmill, and started waking up early each day to walk for 30 minutes before work.

“I could only go for about 5 minutes at first, but I stuck with it,” she said. “After three months, I was down 20 pounds. That was all the inspiration I needed.”

The treadmill and elliptical burned out from heavy use, so the couple joined a gym. Hobbs increased her exercise regimen with high-intensity interval training and kick-boxing and running.

She continues to maintain a healthy diet, eating lean meats and cutting out simple carbohydrates in favor of whole grains.

The changes have paid off. Hobbs lost 108 pounds and her blood pressure is back to normal, no longer requiring medication. Doug Hobbs lost 80 pounds.

“I can wear a bikini know, which is crazy considering where I was a few years ago,” she said.

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Joyce HobbsHobbs – who turns 45 in May – has completed 35 half-marathons. She plans to run her first full marathon June 20 in Duluth, Minnesota.

Her efforts got the attention of the American Heart Association, which awarded her the Northland Lifestyle Change Award.

She’s sharing her story to inspire others to make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of heart disease.

The American Heart Association encourages everyone to live better by following what we call Life’s Simple 7, the health behaviors and factors that determine your risk of heart disease and stroke. Changes are often cheap and easy, and even small improvements can make a big difference. The behaviors are not smoking, following a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active; the factors to monitor are blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

“I’m a cheerleader for anyone who is trying to do this,” Hobbs said. “I know without the help and support from my friends and family, I wouldn’t be where I am.”

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Photos courtesy of Joyce Hobbs

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