Civilian health program can save lives

It was a wake-up call for Richard Heaton when a co-worker persuaded him to get his cholesterol checked during one of the Civilian Health Promotion Services program’s routine visits in his office. 

His results came back fairly good, but his HDL, the good kind of cholesterol, was dismal. HDL numbers should range from 40 to 60, but Heaton’s number was 20, putting him at risk for heart disease. 

“My dad had heart disease and died fairly young, so I paid close attention,” Heaton said. He was advised to take omega 3 supplements, eat certain fatty foods like salmon and avocado, and participate in aerobic exercise to raise his HDL score. 

“After a year of taking occasional supplements and increasing my fatty foods, I expected a big change in my HDL, but it remained at 20. She again mentioned that aerobic exercise would benefit me the most, along with the omega 3 supplements,” Heaton said. “I began a routine of walking, running and biking. It was a slow progression, but I stuck to it for a year.”

His next screening with the civilian health promotions program showed his HDL level was raised to 23. 

“I was hoping for more, but saw it as a challenge to get fit. Over the next five years, I have continued walking and running two to three times a week, and my last HDL screen came in at 35. I still have a ways to go, but I am no longer considered having a risk for heart disease,” Heaton said. 

In the process, he also lost nearly 30 pounds, going from a size 36 waist to 32. 

Corporations provide programs to keep their employees healthy, so Hill AFB similarly offers its program for Department of Defense civilians on base. Active-duty personnel, contract workers and retirees can also participate in much of what Civilian Health Promotion Services offers. 

The program provides screenings for cholesterol, blood glucose levels, blood pressure, body fat percentage and muscle mass. Staffers also go to various locations on base, offering health education classes on nutrition, exercise, stress management and first aid, and hosting biggest-loser competitions with classes focusing on how to improve their numbers. 

“One of the biggest reasons we do this program is that it helps them in their life both at work and at home,” Health Promotion Coordinator Kaelynn Studebaker said. “If we want to have healthy, fit individuals that are happy and successful, we can teach them how to put more time into themselves so they can be better off all-around, whether at work, home or play.” 

Often, employees don’t get around to making doctor appointments or think their situation doesn’t require a doctor visit, as was the case with David Alvord, who didn’t think his cholesterol was bad enough to check in with a doctor. 

However, having the civilian health program come in for a cholesterol screening, Alvord decided it was a convenient way to get checked. Like Heaton, he discovered his good cholesterol was too low. Alvord started exercising and lost 20 pounds. “I feel healthier and I attribute that to those guys checking my cholesterol. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it,” Alvord said. 

Studebaker said the program has been successful because the services are convenient for employees — and awareness can change people’s lives. 

“If you don’t know, you won’t change, but once you know, you can make little changes that can make a big impact,” Studebaker said. “When we have someone come in for a screening, sometimes we don’t see them for another year, but I love the moments when someone says, ‘You told me last year I had high blood pressure, so I quit smoking,’ or another woman who recently had her cholesterol numbers checked and the year after, she had lost 70 pounds and all of her numbers were great. 

“I love hearing people say this has made a different in their life.”

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