Signe Waller

Why did you choose the Y over other places? I started going to Curves which was right down the street from my house but that facility was limited. Then they went out of business. The Y seemed like a natural choice. After joining the Y my husband started going with me. We enjoy using the weight machines, track, and the Silver Sneakers classes.

What would you tell others about the Y? The Bryan Family YMCA is a wonderful place to go for fitness. I have used the exercise room with machines, the Silver Sneakers class, the ping-pong table and the running track. I am so impressed with the facilities, the personnel and the programs. I haven’t yet used the pool or the basketball court, but it seems that whatever you want to do for healthful exercise you can do at the Bryan Y.

I was diagnosed seven years ago with severe Peripheral Arterial Disease, or PAD. This is essentially atherosclerosis. In my case, my legs bore the brunt of the arterial hardening that is a known risk factor for stroke or heart attack. Seven years ago I could not walk more than 7 or 8 minutes at a time. I would have to stop and rest before I could go on and walk for another few minutes. The arteries in both of my legs were occluded and my primary physician could not feel a pulse in my ankles. I was advised to see a surgeon, who told me that PAD is progressive and that I should consider having aorto bifemoral bypass surgery. Otherwise I would face a worsening condition; I might soon not be able to walk at all, and possibly I could lose my feet or legs to amputation. I did some research that led me to believe I had another option, to make lifestyle changes that would allow me to manage, and even reverse, my PAD.

I saw a vascular and vein specialist who confirmed to me that I had made the right choice seven years ago. I can now walk an hour or longer without stopping. A pulse can be easily detected in both of my ankles. A comparison of readings from two Ankle/Brachial Index tests, one done seven years ago and the other recently this september of 2013, indicates a significant improvement in the blood circulation in my legs. The vascular doctor, who declared how impressed he was with my progress, acknowledged that I have indeed, to some extent, reversed the course of my disease. He told me to keep on doing what I am doing. Well, what am I doing?

Here is where the YMCA comes in and the terrific programs that you offer for seniors like my husband and myself. I am seventy-five years old. I attribute my ability to improve my atherosclerosis without surgery or drugs to three factors that comprise my lifestyle change. One of these is exercise. I have been exercising at the Y, generally speaking, at least 3 days a week. On one, two, or three other days of the week I walk in my neighborhood for at least half an hour. According to my vascular physician, my exercise regime has resulted in “significant collateral arterial flow.” That is, the exercise is enabling my body to repair my arteries and build new circulatory vessels. That is why I am able to walk longer now than I was seven years ago and to have warm feet. I especially enjoy Lynne’s Silver Sneakers classes because they combine mild aerobic exercise with strength building, range of motion and flexibility exercises. My body has been saying, “Thank You. Thank you.”

Two other facets of my lifestyle change are that I switched over to a plant-based diet (and ultimately in the past year to a vegan diet) and that I use nutritional supplementation on a regular basis. I take my vitamins and antioxidants in isotonic form. In particular, my entire circulatory system is helped by OPC-3, a very powerful antioxidant. The three prongs of my PAD management program are all essential and each supports the others.

My disease, unfortunately, is a very common one. Many people have PAD that goes undiagnosed. They may have difficulty walking; they may have leg cramps. But they may not know what is wrong until they are advised they have to have a foot amputated, or they have a heart attack or a stroke. Aside from all the suffering these outcomes entail, their sheer cost is daunting in our current medical system. How much more pleasant and less expensive it is to make the lifestyle changes that allow one to manage, even improve, the disease without surgery or drugs!

In sum, the Y is performing an incredibly useful and cost-saving service in making the excellent Silver Sneakers program available to us. It makes all the sense in the world that health insurance companies cover the costs of such programs for seniors like myself who might otherwise not be able to afford them. For many people it could be the difference between life and death, and for all I know that is exactly what it is for me.

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