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CHIPping away at heart problems

After his uncle died from heart problems at 55-years-old, Gerry Bakker knew that he wasn’t invincible.

He practiced a heart-smart diet; his textbook was Canada’s Food Guide. He tried to have a balanced diet with lots of vegetables and grains and an appropriate portion of meat and dairy.

“I was six-feet-tall and 175-pounds: Life was good,” said Bakker.

But the heart-smart diet wasn’t enough to protect Bakker.

“After a busy day of walking through the streets of downtown Kelowna in the summer, knocking on doors, going in air conditioning and then back into the heat, I came home and had supper,” said Bakker.

“I ate a big meal. Not five or ten minutes later, I was sitting on the sofa and suddenly felt like I had an elephant sitting on my chest.”

Bakker said that he initially thought that either he ate too much or that he might have food poisoning.

“It quickly became apparent that there’s something really wrong here.”

According to Bakker, he had read up on the symptoms of heart attacks and he figured out he was having one when his arms went numb.

“Before you knew it, I was in the hospital and there was no question: I’d had a heart attack. I survived that particular case, but I was in rough shape.

A week later, while having surgery in Vancouver’s St. Paul’s hospital, Bakker said he had the white light, near death experience. After that, he knew it was time for a change.

“I’ve been a desk jockey for 30 years in the computer business. I was faced with a doctor saying, ‘If you keep working that hard, you’re going to die for sure; if you keep doing the same diet, you’re going to die for sure’.”

It took a breakdown in a supermarket to get Bakker on the right path.

“I had no where to turn because everything that came in a box had too much salt, or not enough fiber. We were so frustrated that at one point we sat down in the grocery store, sobbing.

“We said, ‘What are we going to do?’ With the advice that we were given, we would never get there with things we could buy in the store.”

Bakker’s friends introduced him to the Coronary Health Improvement Project (CHIP). He went to a training information session and it made all the difference.

“It was a lifesaver. It was basically four weeks of four nights, going through sessions where they would give you a half-hour video showing the consequences of how you used to do stuff and the benefits of doing it slightly different.”

Bakker said that CHIP gave him a recipe for how to change what he eats in his life.

One essential change that Bakker made was eliminating meat and cheese from his diet.

“I stopped eating anything that had a mother or a face,” said Bakker.

Bakker also teamed his new diet with regular exercise. He said that he is now in the best shape that he has ever been.

He encouraged others to consider giving CHIP a try, even if they don’t currently have heart problems.

“If you really want to change your life for the better, then consider this and learn something new. This will change your life.”

For those interested in the CHIP program, there will be information sessions on Aug. 29 and Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. at the Kelowna Lifestyle Centre on 1130 Springfield Road. The sessions are free of charge.

 

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