“I had a choice to make. I could take more and more medications, or I could get serious about healing my body through nutrition and activity.”
Mindy Morrow, a Lawrence resident and mother of five, had a family health history that was not the best. Her grandfather and father both passed away from heart attacks and other members of her family had passed from other serious health problems.
“I had high blood pressure, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, every joint in my body ached and I could hardly move,” Morrow said. “I did not want my family’s past to be my future. When I received the score from my cardiac calcium test and saw I was falling in line to have a heart attack at an early age, I knew I had to make some serious life changes.”
A focus on prevention
It was at that moment Morrow wanted to focus on prevention. After talking with her physician, Dr. Christina Salazar, about adding more medication or changing her lifestyle immediately, she was encouraged to change her lifestyle and this is where her journey kicked off. She had just turned 53 and with five kids, she wanted to live a full life and not fall into the patterns she had seen loved ones suffer with.
Dr. Salazar, a cardiologist with Cardiovascular Specialists of Lawrence, said heart disease is the number one killer for women. Awareness of heart disease can lead to change and she said Morrow took this information and made the changes.
“Together, we discussed diet and exercise changes along with what warning signs can look like and the importance of prevention,” Dr. Salazar said. “Prevention is about knowing your risk, knowing your numbers and this knowledge can lead to make changes that can affect your heart and your life.”
She said she has known Morrow for about two years and though Morrow may not consider herself an inspiration, Dr. Salazar sure thinks she is. She said Morrow worked hard and that showed very clearly in her health measurement.
Getting off blood pressure medications
“What was remarkable was some of the measurements we do, like blood pressure and cholesterol, had significantly changed,” Dr. Salazar said. “She no longer needed blood pressure medicine and her cholesterol had reduced to a normal range. Based on those results we can create a risk assessment, and Mindy reduced her risk by lifestyle changes.”
Watch as Dr. Christina Salazar of Cardiovascular Specialists of Lawrence chats about women’s heart health.
Dr. Salazar said Morrow is one of those success stories you hear about. She was someone who understood her risk, worked hard to make serious changes and she did so successfully.
“This is the story of someone who didn’t have heart disease yet, but wanted to prevent it,” Dr. Salazar said. “She reduced her risk without medications and that is very hard to do. Everyone wants to do this but it takes work and she was really successful.”
Within the first year and after hours of hard work and disciplined routines, Morrow had lost 70 pounds. She has kept this weight off to this day and gotten stronger and stronger.
“It was not easy,” she said. “I remember when I first started moving my body I had to have wraps on my knees and slowly over time, it got easier. I remember writing in my journal ‘just keep going, just keep going’ and I would show up for myself each day in 110-degree weather or negative 10-degree weather. I don’t focus on a number now, I just focus on feeling good, strong and healthy.”
Find your motivation
In October 2019, Morrow completed her first 5K and got second place in her age group. She now runs four to eight miles a day, feels better than ever and is proud to no longer be on medications.
“No matter your situation, you can better yourself,” Morrow said. “Find your motivation and fuel it. For me, I wanted to be the best mom for my kids and set a good example. I didn’t want to feel tired, but have more energy to keep up with them. Truly, I feel so strong, energized and healthy! I feel this more and more each day.”
The best advice Morrow has is to just start! It is the hardest part and once you’ve done it, you have to continue to show up for yourself. She says she is lucky that she didn’t have a serious heart event that made her realize the importance of a healthy lifestyle. After focusing on prevention and hitting her goals, there was no going back to her old ways of living.
“I hope to encourage people to commit to their journey and show up for themselves, they don’t have to feel stuck forever,” Morrow said. “Determine your reason why. Why do you want to feel stronger and healthier? For me, my five kids were my motivation and I certainly didn’t want my family’s past to be my future. I hope to motivate others to just move their bodies 30 minutes a day to begin with, keep going and see where that takes them. No matter your age or health condition, you can better yourself and your health any day.”