A Heart-Healthy Life: How Losing Weight Shaped One Woman’s Future

She had a choice: change her ways or remain in the heart disease danger zone.

In the fall of 2017, an annual health physical revealed that HAP member Daniela Cusumano, 35, of Shelby Township, had sky-high cholesterol and blood pressure. The doctor said that if her numbers didn’t go down, Cusumano, a service dispatcher at a car dealership, would need heart medication.

Cusumano was diagnosed with mixed hyperlipidemia and borderline diabetes. Mixed hyperlipidemia is a genetic disorder resulting in abnormally high levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and other lipids in the blood. Cusumano learned that if the condition were left untreated, or if she didn’t change her lifestyle to try to improve her lipid levels, she could be at high risk of an early heart attack or stroke.

“I was scared out of my mind! I was at my highest weight and I was a wreck in the doctor’s office, crying and thinking, ‘How did I get so big?’” Cusumano says. “I knew it was related to my weight and I had to do something fast. I felt too young to go on heart medication.”

Cusumano asked her doctor for weight-loss ideas. He shared different options, including gastric bypass surgery, a weight-loss program offered through Henry Ford Macomb Center, and a regular diet and exercise program.

A couple of weeks after the physical, Cusumano scheduled an endoscopy for ongoing stomach issues. “I had burning in my chest and stomach after eating certain foods, and it got to a point where I was puking almost every other night,” she says. She was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, received a list of foods to avoid and learned that she had to get her weight down.

Cusumano was intrigued by the weight-loss program at Henry Ford Macomb Center for Weight Management, which her boss participated in. “He lost more than 100 pounds and inspired me,” she says. “I’ve been overweight my whole life, and he was in a similar situation. I’ve tried Weight Watchers, the Atkins diet and diet pills, and nothing worked. I knew if he could do it, I could, too.”

0891 Daniela in copyThe Henry Ford Macomb Center has physicians, nurses, clinicians, health educators, registered dietitians and exercise physiologists. It also uses Health Management Resources®, a national provider of medically supervised weight-loss programs.

Cusumano started the HMR program in November 2017. The program involved drinking shakes, working out, and weekly monitoring with a nurse. She also had monthly blood tests to make sure her blood pressure and cholesterol levels were coming down.

“That’s what made this program stand out to me – they monitored me, and it was structured,” Cusumano says. “I needed that kick-my-butt, do-not-eat-anything-but-those-foods. I had four shakes a day and one little entree.”

Cusumano joined a gym right away and exercised in the evenings. It was hard getting started because she hadn’t worked out in about two years. Initially, she walked on the treadmill for 20 minutes.

“I wouldn’t even touch the Stairmaster because I couldn’t breathe on it,” she recalls. “I wasn’t healthy enough to stay on it. I could do the elliptical 10 or 15 minutes in the beginning and I was only at the gym maybe an hour,” she says. “Now, I like to stay at the gym two hours a night, five nights a week, and I’m able to do the Stairmaster for 30 minutes. I also do the arc trainer, bike and strength training. I plan out my weekly workouts. It’s my routine, and I feel better when I go.”

The program also includes weekly meetings with other participants and an instructor, covering topics like how to stay motivated. “Listening to other people’s stories helps me know I’m not alone,” Cusumano says.

One day, a woman came up to her after class with a card. “She wanted to thank me for inspiring her,” Cusumano says, “because at the time, I reached my 50-pound goal. That sped up my weight loss even more. It helped me kick it up a notch. Now, I was inspiring other people and I knew I could go further.”

In June 2018, Cusumano started the healthy solutions phase, introducing vegetables and fruits into her diet. “It’s up to me how long I want to stay in the program, and it works out for me to stay with it,” she reports. From November to June, Cusumano lost 83 pounds and went from a size 18 to a 10.

“I’ve never been a 10 – EVER!” she says. “I was just going for a size 14, and at the store I ended up being a size 10. I still don’t believe I’m this size. I look in the mirror, and it’s hard to wrap my brain around it. I feel amazing. I’m energized. I used to nap all the time. I don’t want to nap anymore. I’m at the gym or walking every day.”

Beyond slimming down, Cusumano learned that her cholesterol and blood pressure results are average. She no longer needs to worry about being at high risk for a heart attack. “I’m watching what I eat and exercising daily. I’m making myself a priority,” she says. “I eventually want to have kids and be healthy for them.”

Cusumano’s advice is to never give up if you want to get healthy. “If I can do it, anybody can,” she says. “You’re not doing it for anybody else but yourself.”

0891 Pro Tip Design
Learn the 3 steps to take to reduce your heart disease risk from Cardiologist Dr. Mattina.

Categories: Get Healthy

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