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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When Connie Dooley, 60, climbs the hill behind her family house, she passes through her family cemetery and scrambles to the top of the hill where, as a girl, she ate apples from the family trees and sat thinking, looking out over Lincoln County.
"My grandfather worked to pay off this place," she said last week. "He bought it with his labor. I want to live a long, healthy life right here."
A year ago, knowing her family history of diabetes, the retired Lincoln County teacher got a blood test at a health fair. "I looked at that paper with my high cholesterol, weight and blood pressure numbers, and it hit me that I was killing myself, putting myself at risk.
"It hit me that I have a choice about that. I thought: 'I'm smarter than this, aren't I? I don't have to be this way.'"
She started walking every day, exercising with friends. She joined Weight Watchers "and I stopped eating without thinking. I didn't do anything expensive or complicated. I just made up my mind and stuck to it."
Nine months later, she's off most of her blood pressure medication. Her triglycerides, glucose and cholesterol have dropped into normal range. She's no longer at diabetic risk, and she's lost more than 40 pounds.
"I'm just an ordinary person, and I didn't do anything dramatic, but I do think I've added years onto my life," she said.
"A lot of other West Virginians are doing the same thing," she said. "If enough of us do it, we can change this state."
For New Year's inspiration, see more than 50 other West Virginians in today's Life & Style section and at wvgazette.com.
Reach Kate Long at 304-348-1798 or katel...@wvgazette.com.