This year’s recipient of the Lifestyle Change Award is Bennie Muhammad, a Methodist Hospitals cardiac rehab patient.
In Oct. 2008, Bennie began experiencing shortness of breath so he went to his doctor’s office. He was told that his heart was in atrial fibrillation (beating at 300/ minute). The doctor told Bennie that he was on the verge of having a stroke so he was taken to the hospital by ambulance. As a result Bennie had a procedure called Cardiac Ablation.
This procedure successfully took care of Bennie’s irregular heart problems. At this point, Bennie realized he had to change his lifestyle and follow a strict diet. He started following a low sodium, low fat and low cholesterol diet and began exercising on a regular basis as well as taking his medications strictly as prescribed. Not only did Bennie learn the importance of following his diet, but learned to read food labels and nutritional values of all the foods he ate.
Bennie began advocating to at risk youth in his community of Gary and volunteered to speak with young adults to invite them to a better way of life – a heart healthy life. In 2015, Bennie began experiencing shortness of breath. After a visit to his cardiologist Bennie was immediately implanted with a dual chamber pacemaker/defibrillator. With regular exercise 3-4 times a week he is now doing very well. Bennie is enjoying life to its fullest.
The American Heart Association recognizes individuals who have made positive changes to improve their quality of life and health with the Lifestyle Change Award. No change is too small, and every accomplishment is significant. Ideal candidates are people who have taken control of their health in areas of diet, exercise or tobacco cessation and have seen positive results in weight, BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar.
Whether they lost weight, made smarter eating decisions, or improved their cholesterol levels through exercise and diet, the Lifestyle Change Award recipient is chosen because he or she serves as inspiration to others to improve their health.
Nominations for the Lifestyle Change Award can be submitted by friends, co-workers or relatives, and individuals can nominate themselves. Awardees are chosen based on criteria evaluating the significance of the change that was achieved; any obstacles that were surpassed in achieving the goal; and the power that positive lifestyle change had not only on the individual achieving it but also those around him/her (i.e. family, friends, co-workers, community). Winners are chosen by a volunteer committee and presented during the ceremonies prior to the Heart Walk.
“Heart disease is our number one killer in U.S., so we all need to continue to work hard in our commitment to proper diet and exercise, in order to decrease our personal risk factors. The Lifestyle Change Award is a great way to draw attention to the importance of a healthy lifestyle,” said Erin Crawford, Heart Walk Director for the American Heart Association.