The American Heart Association's My Heart. My Life. healthy living initiative helps Americans understand what it means to be healthy and empowers them to take action. A California woman who had a heart attack nearly four years ago is healthier today than she could ever imagine because of a sweeping lifestyle change.
A heart attack on the day after Thanksgiving in 2008 jolted Jodi Pitzen into action. What she thought was indigestion turned out to be a life-threatening emergency. A sweeping lifestyle change followed – Jodi stopped smoking, improved her eating habits and launched a daily dose of physical activity. Today she is healthier than ever, recently completed her eighth half-marathon and walks a 14.5 minute mile.
Jodi’s journey to a healthy lifestyle is an inspiration for her coworkers at Symantec in Mountain View, CA. “They knew me when I was queen of the microwave and fast food and would always rather drive than walk,” she notes. Jodi has been with Symantec for 15 years and serves as a company Wellness Champion, coordinating employee participation in the Silicon Valley Heart Walk.
She is a top Heart Walk fund-raiser and appears frequently as a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. When she decided to step up her physical activity, Jodi joined the Start! Training Program, which prepares walkers and runners for a half-marathon. She is pictured at a recent event and now is one of the coaches.
Her heart attack was a complete surprise. She explains: “I didn’t think I was ‘prime heart attack material’ because I believed that heart disease was a man’s disease or affected older women.” When she finally went to the doctor four days later, she found out she was in real trouble. Her arteries were blocked – one at 100 percent! She had emergency angioplasty that same day to insert four permanent stents.
Jodi was a heavy smoker but stopped after her surgery, knowing it had contributed to her heart issues. She recently celebrated her third year without cigarettes, and takes an active role in educating others about the health risks of smoking.
“Not everyone gets a second chance at life,” Jodi says. “I was lucky, and now, I want to help other people understand their risk for heart disease and what to do if they experience symptoms.”