Cardiologist Speaks


Running Helped This Cardiologist Get off His Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Medications

“I now talk to my patients about lifestyle—especially walking and running—as a way to control and even reverse their chronic illnesses and get off of some of their medications.”

By Harvey S. Hahn Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 2:46 pm



Name: Harvey S. Hahn
Age: 48
Occupation: Cardiologist
Hometown: Centerville, Ohio

How long have you been running?
I have been running for four years.

What prompted you to start?
I started running to rehab from a left knee arthroscopy. But I also wanted to lose weight, get healthy, and feel good again.

How often do you run?
I run on average three to four times a week.

What is your routine?
I complete my long run on Sunday, and then over the course of the week I do one interval day, one tempo run day, and one easy run day. I also lift weights two times a week, and do plyometrics once a week. I rest on Saturdays.

Do you race? If so, how often, and what kind of races?
I typically complete two to three marathons, three to four half marathons, as well as three to four 5Ks a year.

Do you engage in other sports or activities? If so, what and how often?
I enjoy swimming and biking with the kids, and I walk and hike as much as I can.

What’s the most rewarding part of running for you?
For me, the most rewarding part of running is how it makes you feel, and how it energizes you and drains away stress.

Please describe your weight loss journey, including your before and after weights.
I really didn’t think I was overweight or out of shape until I tore a meniscus in my left knee and had to use my arms to get out of my car. I had slowly gained 45 pounds since college—back then I was used to playing basketball six days a week. The weight gain was slow and due to the typical excuses—marriage, kids, work, and being tired. After I hurt my knee, I realized that it was because I was carrying the extra 45 pounds around every single step of the day. I also realized that if I didn’t do something, I would be watching my kids play instead of being out there playing with them.

So I went mostly vegan, and started running and using portion control. I got up to three miles at a time, and then went running with a friend and did a hilly five-miler in intense heat. I felt destroyed afterward, but for the rest of the day I felt great, really sharp mentally, and was in a great mood. That’s when I started to run more seriously.

The sad part of this is that I’m a board certified cardiologist who was being treated for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and I wasn’t trying to work on my weight or lifestyle at all. After making these changes and dropping weight, I got off of my blood pressure pill (Norvasc) and my cholesterol pill (Lipitor) and my numbers are even better now then when I was taking the medications. I now talk to my patients about lifestyle—especially walking and running—as a way to control and even reverse their chronic illnesses and get off of some of their medications. 

What is the secret to your weight loss success?
The secret to my weight loss success is motivation. Trying to lose weight to just get a six pack isn’t a strong enough motivator to make real lasting changes. I wanted to set an example for my two boys so that they wouldn’t have to fight weight and chronic illnesses when they get older like I did. I also wanted to be a good example for the patients that I take care of.

The operational secret to my success is making my exercise and eating routine a habit so that I don’t have to use up any will power on it. 

How do you stay motivated?
I just have to look at my kids. They used to be chubby, but not anymore. I want them to have as full of a life as possible. I also plan races year round to keep me on my training program, and I run races with friends at all distances in order to keep it fun.

Do you have any favorite motivational quotes?
“Genetics loads the gun, but behaviors pull the trigger.”

“Do, or do not! There is no try.” —Yoda

“The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don’t define them, or ever seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them.” —Denis Waitley

“You must be the change you want to see in the world.” —Ghandi

“We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” —Aristotle

“You must own everything in your world. There is no one else to blame.” —Jocko Willink, Navy Seal

“There is no way to happiness; happiness IS the way.” Thich Nhat Hanh

What are your current short and long term goals?
I’ve completed nine marathons, but I haven’t gotten lose to qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I want to BQ and run it at least once. I also want to do a 50K or 50-miler before I turn 50.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Dropping 45 pounds is nothing compared to some of the other stories I’ve read, but if someone who is supposed to know about health can let themselves get so unhealthy—that’s a problem. If doctors would treat, teach, and lead by example we could make a huge dent into obesity, diabetes, and chronic illnesses and at the same time help people live a better and fuller life.



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Too Old To Compete...You're Never Too Old!!

99-Year-Old Upsets 92-Year-Old in Thrilling Sprint

Seven years and 0.05 seconds separated Orville Rogers and Dixon Hemphill at the 2017 Masters Indoor Track Championships.

Runner's World

Donning a pair of prescription sunglasses because he lost his normal reading glasses while traveling, Hemphill (in lane 4 in the video above), a retired businessman from Fairfax, Virginia, was just beaten in the 60-meter-dash at the USATF Masters Indoor Track & Field Championships on February 18. It was a photo finish—five-hundredths of a second seperated him and the only other runner in the heat, 99-year-old World War II veteran and pilot Orville Rogers.

Hemphill led for 55 meters but was nipped at the line. 

“I took off, and I was a little bit ahead so I thought, ‘This is going well,’” Hemphill said. Rogers executed a late surge to achieve the come-from-behind win. He finished in 18.00, Hemphill in 18.05.

The elder competitor credits the victory, in part, to the visualization he does while training up to three times a week at a gym near his home in Dallas, Texas. 

“I started years ago visualizing success in whatever race I participate in,” Rogers said. “That’s still my objective: I train hard and I visualize crossing the finish line out in front. And I work at it pretty consistently. It’s very rewarding to be able to accomplish what you set out to do.” 

USATF Masters
Orville Rogers, left, races Dixon Hemphill at the 2017 USATF Masters Indoor Track & Field Championships on February 18 in the 60-meter sprint. Dave Albo

Hemphill and Rogers have raced before. The pair met four years ago at a masters track meet—neither remembers which one. They’ve since developed a friendly rivalry. They run in the same heat as they are often the oldest runners in the meet, although they compete in different age groups and don't vie for the same medals.

Rogers has defeated Hemphill in the 60-meter-dash at the USATF Indoor Championships four years in a row.

“I guess he has the speed and I have the distance,” Hemphill said while chuckling.

The sprint was the shortest of five events both runners completed over three days. They also faced off in the 200, 400, 800, and 1600 (Hemphill finished in 17:30, Rogers in 19:23). Hemphill was faster in each of the longer events, though they both were awarded five age-group gold medals.

Rogers said because of the sparse competition, he is less worried about podium position and more focused on time. 

“I have no competition at all,” he said. “All I have to do it show up, suit up, and finish to get a medal.”

Which is why he is happy to have Hemphill on the track in the adjacent lane. They push each other to go faster. 

Over the past decade, Rogers has become a stalwart at national masters track meets. He has set age group world records in 13 events, from the 60 meters to the 3,000. He started running at age 50, after reading a book titled Aerobics by Dr. Ken Cooper. 

“I love the thrill of preparation and training,” he said. “When I compete, I am not just running against the people out on the track at that moment, I am running against everyone who has run the event before me. That is gratifying to me.”

On February 1 of this year, Rogers published his own book called The Running Man, which follows his journey as both an accomplished masters runner and a decorated pilot.

Hemphill began running 50 years ago after signing up for the mile race at a small track meet. He was a pole vaulter and discuss thrower in college but joined the local Potomac Track Club later in life to stay in shape. 

While training for his 61st triathlon at age 74, a car stuck him during a bike ride. He suffered a collapsed lung and broke several ribs and his pelvis, spending 41 nights in the hospital. He recovered and returned to running, not stopping for the past 18 years except for a brief period after hip replacement surgery in 2008.

“I compete at these events for the joy of running and the competition,” Hemphill said. “And then the comradeship.”

This year in Albuquerque, he traveled and roomed with a 72-year-old lawyer whom he met at a meet three years ago.

Rogers and Hemphill will next meet on the track this July at the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Leading up to the next clash, Rogers said his younger competitor is trying to earn an advantage.

“I think he has tried to gain a little information through my book and through our visits together,” Rogers said with a laugh a few days after the meet. Rogers had just completed a 2.5-mile run, deciding to skip his normal weightlifting routine because he was still tired from competition. 

Hemphill, for his part, seems confident he can win the next time they surge on a straightaway. 

“I know I can improve for the future,” he said. “There is training that I am not doing that I should.”

Maybe next time at the line, he will lean.


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Exercise May Save You From Dementia

According to New Research

Exercise Promotes healthy brain function with healthy activity

By Molly Hurford December 19, 2016



New research has shown a benefit of regular exercise on cognitive impairment—and that might help reduce the risk of dementia in elderly populations. Activity has been shown to protect against vascular cognitive impairment, which is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer's disease. To learn more about how exercise might be able to ward off dementia, we chatted with study author Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PhD, PT, who is an Associate Professor and the Canada Research Chair at the Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health at the University of British Columbia.

Liu-Ambrose explains that the study showed a small reduction in vascular cognitive impairment, which is impairment caused by a disease of the blood vessels in the brain. "For example, a stroke can be a cause of vascular cognitive impairment," she says. "In our study, we worked with individuals who had vascular cognitive impairment largely due to disease of the small blood vessels of the brain." Published in the latest online issue of Neurology, the research looked at 70 elderly subjects who were already dealing with the effects of vascular cognitive impairment. Half of the participants took part in one-hour exercise classes three times a week for six months. The other half received information each month about vascular cognitive impairment and a healthy diet, but no information on physical activity. At the end of six months, the participants were all assessed.

Animal studies have already shown that exercise results in the release of a growth factor called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). "BDNF promotes neuron growth, differentiation, and survival,” she explains. And exercise specifically increases BDNF expression in the hippocampus, which she says is a major brain region responsible for learning and memory. In previous studies, it has been shown that exercise can increase the volume of the hippocampus—so, if exercise increases the size of the hippocampus and increases BDNF expression, that means exercise keeps your brain in better shape.

The subjects who exercised had a small improvement on the test of overall thinking skills compared to those who did not exercise. "This result, while modest, was similar to that seen in previous studies testing the use of drugs for people with vascular cognitive impairment," Liu-Ambrose says. It’s still a minor difference, she notes, but any positive non-drug-related intervention is a good sign. And the exercising group also improved compared to the other group in their blood pressure and on a test of how far they could walk in six minutes, so overall health improved as well.

Stepping back to how you can prevent problems as you age, there isn’t one specific type of exercise Liu-Abrose recommends for people. Most research has been done on aerobic training like cycling, though, and she adds that even without the results of this study, exercise in general—in any form—as we age becomes steadily more important. “We need to be cognizant that exercise in general is good for physical health, and a physically healthy body is critical for a healthy brain,” she explains. "Specifically, many chronic conditions that we develop in midlife and onwards, such as high cholesterol, blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes, all contribute to one’s dementia risk."

Liu-Ambrose recommends beginning regular exercise as early in life as possible, but even latecomers to sport will benefit. "I encourage everyone to view their physical and cognitive health as investments,” she says. She likens it to saving for retirement: the earlier you start, generally, the larger the nest egg you’ll have. "The same principle likely applies to our physical and cognitive health—we should all aim to build our reserve throughout the life span to have the best change to age well."




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