Healthbeat Report: The Health Do-Over

August 6, 2009 The leading killer in this country remains what it has been for more than a century: heart disease. It kills nearly 650,000 each year.

Smoking, no exercise and fat-ridden diets -- they're bad habits considered the main causes of heart disease. But did you know you can reverse the damage that's been done?

Pattiy Hill was a yo-yo dieter, rarely exercised, was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and joint problems. She was 51 years old and fading fast.

"I had been fat for so long. I wanted to live, and I knew fat people don't grow old," said Pattiy.

At 280 pounds, Pattiy wanted a do-over.

"We get a do-over. You change your habits now, within three years, it's like you only had the healthy habit," said Dr. Michael Roizen, chief wellness officer, Cleveland Clinic.

But just how long does it take? How much will you recover? Put down that cigarette. In five years, a smoker's lungs can heal.

"If you quit before age 35 and before 20 pack years, which is one pack for 20 years, you get all of it back. The longer you wait to quit, and the more you've smoked, the less you get back, but even at age 60, you get some of it back," said Dr. Roizen.

From changing your lungs to changing your genes.

"Just changing your habits changes whether the genes are on or off," said Dr. Roizen.

Eating three quarters of a cup of broccoli four times a week turns on the GSTM-1 gene. That gene makes a protein that's thought to kill prostate, breast and colon cancer cells.

"You get to turn on a gene that helps you kill those cancers with simply something as simple as having broccoli," said Dr. Roizen.

Twelve walnut halves a week doubles the amount of Omega 3 that most of us have.

"It decreased the risk of stroke or heart attack by 62 percent," said Dr. Roizen.

Diet and exercise also takes the years off.

Pattiy 136 pounds the old fashioned way. In 13 months, she cut her body fat from 60 to 20 percent and went from a size 24 to a slender size 4.

"I looked at it as a way to help myself rather than a way of depriving myself," said Pattiy.

Pattiy is now free of diabetes. Her high blood pressure and high cholesterol are gone along with her joint pain.

"It's turned my life around 100 percent. I am so healthy now. I feel so healthy now," she said.

If you're using money or insurance as an excuse, think again. Pattiy lost all her weight while she was uninsured. The only money she spent was on a gym membership. The savings on medications she used to take has more than paid for that.

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