Growing up on a farm, I had access to lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and I really thrived as a child. My mom was always into nutrition, so I was never allowed to have sugar cereals or packaged snack cakes. Everything was homemade. After I graduated from high school, my diet changed and I wasn’t eating quite as healthy. I ended up gaining some weight and this caused me to embark on my journey into better health and nutrition.

After being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease a few years ago, I realize that I really needed to get back to a healthy lifestyle, including good nutrition. I found out that if left untreated, my Hashimoto’s could have increased my chance of heart disease by 20%! Given that my family has a history of heart disease, this is a risk that I didn’t want to take. I was able to take steps to treat the disease so that it didn’t turn into heart disease, but many women are not nearly as lucky. It was this realization that brought me to my work with the American Heart Association and GoRed for Women. My mission is to educate women about nutrition and lifestyle choices. Many women don’t realize that they can help to protect themselves from heart disease. Nutrition is a huge factor. Exercise is another.

My husband and I start each morning with a large protein shake filled to the rim of the blender with greens and then head to the gym to walk, lift weights, do yoga and then finish with a nice soak in the hot tub. We love the time we have to talk and bond on the 20 minute drive to the gym. We know that time spent in the gym together now will give us more time together in our later years.

A hobby that I have enjoyed for over 22 years is watercolor painting. Painting is relaxing to me and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I love to donate prints of my paintings to silent auctions so that I can help charities make money for the people that they serve. I also have been known to give my prints as gifts, especially to friends who have spent time in the hospital. I have been told that my work really helped them to feel better and to heal.

Making healthy choices such as good nutrition, daily exercise and having a hobby that you love are all great steps to leading a heart healthy lifestyle. I love being able to give back by educating women on health and nutrition and am excited to reach as many women as possible in the coming year!