Natalie Westlake

Natalie Westlake uses daily exercise to help her live longer – and have more fun along the way!

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Natalie Westlake credits a trip to her family doctor for pushing her into fitness. After a regular checkup, the 47-year-old mom from Verdun, Que., learned she had hypertension and elevated cholesterol levels. Since she has a family history of heart problems, that was motivation enough for Natalie to take her health into her own hands. Two years later, she has increased her life expectancy – and her enjoyment of life – with daily exercise and heart-healthy eating.

Before the May 2003 diagnosis, Natalie’s fitness routine consisted of the occasional walk. And when it came to her diet, she says she didn’t pay a whole lot of attention. “When the routine tests came back high-risk,” she says. “I really decided to crack down on myself.”

Natalie started exercising 45 to 60 minutes a day, five days a week. It took a while to settle into a fitness routine, but with trial and error she’s found what works for her. “I started by skipping rope,” she says. “But it hurt my knees, so I don’t do that anymore.” Today, she rides a stationary bike for 30 minutes, three times a week and does strength training, including crunches, waist-twists and leg-lifts every day. Natalie also lifts five-pound weights three times a week.

Natalie watches her fat and sodium intake and uses heart-healthy cooking methods, such as steaming and dry frying. She has cut red meat from her diet and boosted the amount of vegetables she eats, favouring dark leafy greens and vitamin-rich sweet potatoes. “My family could not be more supportive – if I’m eating something they haven’t seen before, my sons ask if I’m allowed to eat it,” she says. “I love how they care and want to keep an eye on me.”

Natalie has dropped 39 pounds, gone from a size 18 to a 12 and can wear small or medium tops instead of large. “I’m feeling healthy and looking better,” she says. But that’s not the biggest reward. Her cholesterol levels have dropped to a safer level and she’s confident she’ll live a longer, healthier life. “My doctors are very happy, my family is happy and so am I. That’s the best feeling of all.”