By Jon Wysochanski
A fast-paced society leaves many an individual facing an unbalanced and unhealthy life and its detrimental consequences.
One local businessman is glad he learned how to change his lifestyle before it was too late.
Westlake resident Jim Schultz, 61, is the CEO and president of a distribution business in Avon Lake. Schultz’s occupation often meant long business trips, long hours and time away from home. Over the years, his health often took a back seat to his convenience.
He would often eat fast food, scope out the vending area when he checked into a hotel or grab something quick to eat wherever he happened to be. Along the way he had tried multiple times to change his eating habits, but nothing ever stuck.
“I had tried every diet that was imaginable; I rarely exercised and my eating habits were pretty bad,” he explained during a telephone interview.
But eight months ago Schultz enrolled in EMH Healthcare’s Enlighten Program in Avon, and he said his health has drastically changed.
Over the years, Schultz said, his eating habits got out of control and he gained weight. Eventually, a stress test revealed clogged arteries, in which he had three stents placed. He was also diagnosed as pre-diabetic, and he soon found himself on medications for heart disease and diabetes. Enlighten changed all of this, he said, and has made his health part of a routine. As a result, he is off some of his medications and his health screens are more positive.
“I’ve lived a life as an executive under a schedule,” he said. “Doing this program permitted me to treat my health as part of my schedule.”
Enlighten is a multifaceted, six-month lifestyle program in which people are thoroughly examined and taught how to change their relationships with food and exercise. Those who enroll undergo health screens, meet with dietitians, keep food journals, attend support groups and approach healthy lifestyles on multiple levels.
Kris Komosa, the nurse practitioner for Enlighten, worked with Schultz. She said it is highly rewarding seeing people like Schultz, who have chronic diseases like diabetes or lipid disorders, change their lifestyles. Schultz has improved in all of his health parameters, Komosa said, and his functional capacity for exercise has also expanded.
Beyond health parameters, Komosa said she believes Schultz has gained an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle – which should have a downstream effect of slowing his coronary artery disease.
“It goes far beyond what we can see on a scale,” Komosa said of lifestyle changes and how health care providers can actually see improvements in lipid parameters, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. “It’s great to lose inches, but you’re also making people better from the inside out.”
Weight problems, high cholesterol and high blood pressure lead to major problems like strokes and heart attacks, Komosa said, and the goal of Enlighten is to intervene before that happens. Komosa, who works with cardiac patients on a daily basis, said interventions may not reverse cardiovascular diseases completely, but they will improve overall cardiovascular health.
And just because heart attacks or diabetes may run in a person’s family doesn’t mean there is no hope for such people. In many cases people will think a genetic predisposition to certain diseases means they are destined to have it as well, Komosa said, but this is only partially true. Genes have the ability to be activated or deactivated depending on what positive or negative lifestyle behaviors a person engages in.
“Genetic predispositions are influenced by (other) factors,” she said, “namely your diet and lifestyle.”
Schultz said his diagnosis with heart disease and pre-diabetes was a true wake-up call. Prior to this he had no indications other than weight gain that his arteries were clogged. He never experienced a heart attack or a stroke.
“This has moved me from pre-diabetic to no diabetes,” Schultz said of Enlighten. “My stress test done in December, the results were phenomenal, and I’ve been taken off certain medications as a result.”
Komosa said Enlighten is a program that creates a community of people looking out for one another. Although they may finish the six-month program, they have the option to stick around longer.
“We never really go away,” she said. “You may be done with that six-month intensive phase of the program, but you can always come to meetings and there’s always support.”
And just knowing support is there when he needs it has successfully kept Schultz out of fast-food drive-thrus and lobby vending machines for the past eight months.
“It sure is nice knowing you have a support team as you’re going through this process – because it is a process,” he said. “It takes time and it takes commitment, and I found being on the run as much as I am, I just didn’t take the time to better my health. Now I have more energy, I feel more alert, but I’m more conscious of my environment around me and particularly how it relates to eating.”
For more information on Enlighten, visit www.emh-healthcare.org/body.cfm?id=140, or call Enlighten Program coordinator Susan Burger at 440-988-6875.