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Health Team

Teen Changes Lifestyle to Drop Pounds

Posted October 18, 2007 5:02 p.m. EDT
Updated October 19, 2007 12:10 a.m. EDT

— Heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 and No. 3 killers in this country.

Being overweight is a key risk factor for both. Cardiovascular disease isn't just a problem for older adults. The seeds of heart disease can begin in our youth.

An epidemic of overweight children is a bad sign for their future. So Michael Massey, 19, of Apex decided to make a change.

He has held on to a few photographs of himself at his heaviest.

“I actually started packing on weight like crazy when I was probably 10, 11, 12 and then from there just ballooned out,” he said.

Massey swelled to 242 pounds. Now he's about 90 pounds lighter – at around 150 pounds. Massey said he knew he had a family history of heart disease and that his unhealthy habits put him on the same path.

"[I definitely had] a lot of high calorie, high fat intake in my diet [and] almost no physical activity,” he said.

Massey began his new quest with one-hour walks, often through downtown Apex, about five days a week. The American Heart Association encourages walking as exercise because it has the lowest drop-out rate of any other physical activity. It only requires a good pair of walking shoes.

Brisk walking for as little as 30 minutes a day can provide many benefits, including increased energy level, reduced stress, improved muscle tone and strength, improved circulation, lower blood cholesterol, triglyceride and blood pressure levels, reduced weight and lower bone loss.

Massey combined walking and exercise in the gym with a change in diet. Gone were the high sugar and fried foods.

“I love fried food. Wow! Anybody will tell you,” he said.

But now he eats a lot of boneless, skinless chicken breast, which is low in fat and high in protein. He also eats more fruits and vegetables. It was a drastic lifestyle change, but he refused to live the old way.

“You're miserable when you're like that, though. I mean, it's not really a life,” he said. "I know anybody out there can [do it]. They just have to put their mind to it.”

For Massey, it's a lifetime lifestyle.

"I'm staying right where I am. There's no way in the world I'll put any of that back on. No way,” he said.

Massey was in last year's Triangle heart walk and plans to be in it again on Sunday. It's at the Imperial Center Park in the RTP. Money turn-ins begin at 2 p.m. The walk starts at 3 p.m.

To register, or for more information, visit www.starttriangle.org.