After a health scare in July 2018 Gwen Huerta, administrative support supervisor for the Irwin County Health Department, made the decision to get healthy.
“I wound up in the ER and they weren’t able to get my blood pressure down. It was very, very high, almost to the point they wanted to put me in the hospital. After they were finally able to get it down the doctor told me that I had to do something about my blood pressure and cholesterol,” Gwen said.
Gwen knew she had to make a change.
In March 2019 Gwen made the decision to enroll in South Health District’s Hypertension and Diabetes Program to help get her blood pressure and cholesterol under control.
The hypertension management program focuses on the identification and control of diabetes, hypertension, weight issues and high cholesterol. As part of the program patients receive counseling on weight loss, diet and exercise as well as medication management and blood pressure monitoring.
During her first appointment with the program she met with Irwin County Nurse Manager Michelle Stone.
Stone let her know that her cholesterol was 233.
Until that point Huerta had only been taking her blood pressure medication. After that reading, she knew it was time to take cholesterol medication as well and really kick-start her lifestyle change.
“Everyone in my family has cholesterol or blood pressure problems. A lot of it is hereditary. I decided that just because it’s hereditary doesn’t mean it has to be me. I’m going to be a grandmother one day. I want to be able to ride bikes and play in the yard with my grandkids. I don’t want to get so big that I need a walker to get around or not be able to keep up with them.”
Then Planet Fitness opened in Tifton and everything seemed to align.
She started going to the gym five days a week and taking her cholesterol medication. She quickly noticed she began to feel better, needed to take her asthma medicine less and was able to sleep better each night.
Four weeks later she went in to get another round of bloodwork with the hypertension program and her cholesterol had been cut in half.
But she didn’t stop there.
“I decided that if I was going to make a lifestyle change and go to the gym, I needed to make a lifestyle change as far as what I eat.”
She didn’t do it all at once…giving up sweet tea took a little bit of time, but now she is proud to say that she doesn’t drink sodas and her only caffeine each day is the two cups of coffee she allows herself in the mornings.
Gwen eats around 1,300 calories each day. She packs healthy lunches and snacks for herself, avoiding sugary snacks, potatoes, rice and bread as much as possible.
“If I am craving ice cream or a candy bar, I will get a small one that way I don’t overdo it and gorge on it. I also have cheat days. Usually Saturday is my cheat day and, while I try to stay within my calories, I will eat what I want within moderation.”
Since March 2019, Gwen has lost 32 pounds.
While Gwen does contribute a lot of the decision for change to her future grandchildren, she also wants to make it clear that she initiated the change for herself.
“You have to do it for yourself not everyone else. People would ask me when I first started, ‘Why are you doing this, who are you trying to impress?’ I would tell them that I am trying to impress myself. I’m trying to look good for myself. I encourage anybody that’s struggling, and I did, I struggled, but you’ve just got to make that decision.”