How This Athlete Learned about Healthy Eating – And You Can, Too

You can see right away that Deb DeHaven is an athlete. She’s 5 feet 2, weighs 100 pounds, and stays strong by lifting weights three times a week. Here’s what you can’t immediately see: Deb’s doctor recently diagnosed her with hypertension at the crisis stage (180/100). “This is something I never would have expected,” says Deb, 64, a track and field champion. “I had the mentality that, as long as I stay fit, I can eat anything I want to and not gain weight, so it’s OK. I was wrong!” Wrong, but not alone. In the United States alone, 47 percent of adults (or 116 million people) have some level of hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exercise is essential at any age and at any level of athletic ability. You don’t have to look or move like Deb to get healthy exercise. But it’s a two-sided coin, with exercise on one side – and a proper diet on the other. Most of us don’t move enough – and eat a diet of too much salt, fat, and red meat that can lead to a fatty plaque build-up on the blood vessel walls, which narrows the arteries. The heart works harder to pump blood throughout your body, increasing pressure against artery walls. Hypertension greatly increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Processed food is a big contributor. The CDC says just 1 in 4 adults with hypertension have it under control.

Deb takes medication now and has started on the DASH Diet, or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. WebMD says, “The DASH diet includes foods that are rich in potassium, calcium and magnesium. These nutrients help control blood pressure. The diet limits foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat and added sugars.”

Deb is now a believer. “What a difference this diet has made in my life,” she said. “I no longer have migraines six days a week. I used to wake up in the middle of the night with a migraine not knowing what caused it. The answer was right in front of me all along. It was my poor eating habits I picked up over the years. In Masters track, Deb was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in 2021 in the five-event Pentathlon (Women 60-64). She is currently ranked second in the U.S. (W60-64) in the triple jump, fourth in the 60-meter hurdles, and fifth in the long jump.
And this is without being 100 percent healthy. “My blood pressure has drastically improved,” she says. “I’m out of the crisis stage.” “You might not see it (disease) on the outside, but in the inside it’s evident, and it can be deadly if it’s tampering with your blood pressure,” she says. “I’ve come a long way and I will get there by taking small steps, one at a time.” Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure and diet. Come see us to make sure you’re getting the right exercise on a regular basis!

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