“It doesn’t matter how old – or young - you are. Things happen if you don’t take care of yourself. I’m lucky I’m still here and can still make changes. Plus, I’m setting a good example for my 12-year-old son Noah who’s learning alongside me.” - Jessica Ramos
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Jessica Ramos knew her gradual weight gain wasn’t good for her health. She was eating out, staying home more and not exercising.

“I was feeling fatigued and unwell for months but couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong,” she said.

Her doctor recommended changes to ward off diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. But she said she didn’t take the advice seriously.

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“I had this attitude of I’m young and healthy and fine. I’m ‘untouchable,’” says Ramos.

Then, on a Mother’s Day outing, something stopped her in her tracks. She suddenly couldn’t breathe. Her chest hurt persistently. Pain shot down her left arm and into her jaw.

“It felt like hours, but it was only minutes. I didn’t even realize it, but I was having a heart attack,” she said.

The UnityPoint Health – Trinity Emergency Department team conducted tests and revealed a significant blockage in an artery. The region’s leading heart experts greeted her days later for an exploratory procedure, narrowly avoiding surgical intervention.

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“Honestly, I was scared. I had to change my outcome,” Ramos said.

Following a successful cardiac rehabilitation program with the UnityPoint Health team, she enrolled in Cooking with Heart to help build skills and a support system as she started to eat better. Ramos lost nearly 60 pounds.

Led by nutrition professional Teresa Pangan, PhD, the Cooking with Heart classes taught Ramose how to store food so it tempts you into eating the right things, where to find flavor and how not to break the bank when buying fresh ingredients.

“With simple, quick to assemble ingredients, you have a roadmap for good taste and food that’s good for you,” says Pangan.

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As a Hispanic woman at greater risk for developing heart disease, Ramos advocates for reversing a scary trend.

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“I’m a shining example that you can turn it around for yourself and for those you love or who love you.”

Pangan stresses the tremendous impact. “I’ve seen people lose weight, drop their cholesterol, cut out blood pressure medication and manage their blood sugars just from spending a few nights with us in class.”

Ramos said the instructor showed how what you eat and do affects your body– both good and bad.

“I knew I had gained some weight, ok – a lot of weight,” Ramos said. “I had no idea how the small choices I was making could do so much damage to my body.”

For Pangan, the best part is how people feel better about life.

“They have more energy and have gotten rid of the fog.”

UnityPoint Health offers the Cooking with Heart Foundational Series at no cost thanks to support from the Trinity Health Foundation.  Learn more and register at unitypoint.org/CookingWithHeart/.

“It doesn’t matter how old – or young – you are. Things happen if you don’t take care of yourself. I’m lucky I’m still here and can still make changes. Plus, I’m setting a good example for my 12-year-old son Noah who’s learning alongside me.”

She admits some days are harder than others but feels equipped with tools for staying on track. Ramos credits the UnityPoint Health – Trinity Heart Center team for getting her where she is today.

“Everything they offered since my heart attack has opened my eyes and helped me on my path to health. It’s doable. It’s fun. It won’t break the bank,” says Ramos.

Source: UnityPoint Health News

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