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A Patient Inspires Her Cardiologist

'When people are determined ... they succeed'

Between working nine- to 10-hour days and caring for her mother in a nursing home, Pat Negrette had little energy or inspiration to focus on her own well-being.

And it showed. She was overweight, and her cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood glucose levels were all rising.

Her cardiologist, Annabelle Volgman, MD, warned Pat that she was headed down a dangerous path.

"Dr. Volgman kept telling me to diet and exercise, but it went in one ear and out the other," says Pat. "I just thought it would be too difficult to change my habits."

Then two years ago, Volgman diagnosed Pat with metabolic syndrome, a condition in which a combination of risk factors occur concurrently and increase a person's risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Learning diabetes was imminent was a wake-up call that inspired Pat to focus on herself.

"I was taking care of everyone except myself; it was time to take care of me," she says.

Making a change

Volgman directed Pat to the "Eat Well, Love Better, Move More (ELM)" study, a program through the Rush University Prevention Center that's designed to reverse metabolic syndrome through lifestyle modification. Each week, Pat and other study participants learned how to cook healthier foods; exercise; read nutrition labels; and, in general, live a healthy life.

Rather than grabbing take-out for a quick dinner fix, Pat now prepares nutritious meals with fresh, seasonal vegetables and lean proteins. She avoids processed foods and reads every label to check for sodium, fat, fiber and protein. She exercises regularly and logs 10,000 steps a day on her pedometer.

The results from her efforts have further inspired her to stay committed to healthy living. She has shed 15 pounds and reversed her metabolic syndrome. Her cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood glucose levels are all down, and her risk for developing diabetes has been significantly lowered.

"This was something I did for myself, and I'm happy I did," says Pat. "Once I got started, it wasn't even that hard. I feel good and I have more energy."

Volgman is also thrilled. "Seeing patients make huge life changes inspires me to keep motivating them," she says. "When people are determined, like Pat, they succeed."