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Practicing what you preach – one heart doctor’s lifestyle crusade

Ann Davis, MD, Cardiologist

Learn how cardiologist Ann Davis lost 130 pounds and the impact it's had on her life as a wife, mother, and cardiologist. See her feature in the recent "Woman's Day" magazine or read her story below.

Every day a new group of people grapple for the first time with the idea of their mortality. The trigger might be hitting a certain age, the onset of heart disease, or being around others who are ill. Many turn to their healthcare providers for answers. What can I do to make the most of my life? How can I prolong it?

But healthcare professionals aren't immune to their own moments of truth. Ask 44-year-old cardiologist Ann Davis, M.D., of Midwest Heart Specialists, whose own "aha" moment in 2009 led to a weight loss of 125 pounds and a new, active lifestyle.

Says Dr. Davis, "I see things in my practice every day that remind me of how precarious life can be. There are consequences for good choices and bad choices and I knew I had to get on the right page. You finally realize it's not selfish to take care of yourself. You're setting an example for your children. "

Both Dr. Davis and her pediatrician husband Steve Kovar, M.D., of Kids First Pediatrics, plan to run the Chicago marathon in the fall, a first for Davis. Now their boys Benny, 8, and Sammy, 5, want to be runners too.

Here's Dr. Davis' healthy approach to weight loss:

    Eat several small meals daily to prevent swings in blood sugar and to help keep your obesity hormones (e.g., leptin and ghrilin) in balance. Include some complex carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.
  • Choose good fats, found in olive and canola oils, avocado, seeds, nuts and dark chocolate.
  • Avoid trans fats, and limit saturated fats and simple carbohydrates such as white flour and white sugar.
  • Emphasize unprocessed foods. These include fruits, vegetables, fiber, whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, and non-or low-fat dairy items such as Greek yogurt.
  • Choose foods dense with nutrients. A choice Dr. Davis often enjoys for breakfast or dinner is quinoa, an ancient seed, similar to a grain. It supports weight loss with levels of protein and complex carbohydrates that keep your stomach feeling full for hours. (See related story.)
  • Select your family's treats on your own terms. For example, Davis chooses cookies with healthy ingredients such as whole grains and dark chocolate.
  • Get in touch with why you're eating. If food is your tranquilizer, it's time to look at other options for comfort. If you think of food as your reward, remember the real reward is being healthy, fit and happy. And a happy, positive outlook may also decrease your risk of heart disease.
  • Believe you can start a more active, adventurous lifestyle today, even if the process is gradual. Make cardio and weight training part of your life as the new athlete you are.

Says Davis, "Once you set your goals, each victory will make it easier to go for the next. And if your whole family is on board, the benefits of a wonderful new lifestyle will extend for generations to come."


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