By 2010, when she came to Health Right, her triglyceride levels (fat in the bloodstream) had risen to 1,316, compared with a normal level of 150. "She was a walking heart attack," said Keith Settle, patient education coordinator.
She was "staying in the apartment all day, smoking a lot. I was taking my thyroid pill every other day instead of daily, to make it stretch," she said. "I know now that put me at greater risk of a heart attack."
Finally, late in 2010, someone told her about Health Right. She went. "It was one of the best decisions I ever made."
She lost 57 pounds, brought her triglycerides down to 152 and cut her cholesterol almost in half, from 334 to 171.
"My friends say the old Linda is back. I haven't missed one of my grandson's soccer games this year, and I dance with my teenage granddaughter now."
She signed up for Health Right's Healthy Heart program, which offers weekly classes, taught by volunteers. She took the "Puffer Snuffer" class and stopped smoking. After a raw food cooking class, she revamped her cooking.
"They say the more you take charge of your health, the better off you are," she said. "I'm living proof." She has volunteered to teach a cooking class at Health Right this winter. "I'm paying it forward," she said.
'We give back when we can'
So far, Ellen Cook has cut her blood glucose in half with better diet, from above 400 to 205. "Now I need to lose weight to bring it the rest of the way down," she said.
She wants to join Health Right's new Weight Watchers group, but it costs about $10 in gas to come to town. "We think we can afford it every other week," she said.
"We can never pay them back for what they've done for us," she said. "A few years back, when they were moving, we had some extra dollars, so we hired a U-Haul trailer to help them move. We give back what we can."
She and her husband live quietly in the country. "You step out your door and the air is fresh and the birds are singing," she said. "We don't have much, but I'm thankful each day I can live my life," she said.
More about West Virginia Health Right
Reach Kate Long at katel...@wvgazette.com or 304-343-1884. Reach West Virginia Health Right at 304-343-7000.