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Exercise, diet helps ‘cut’ cholesterol

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. - Senior Master Sgt. Frederick Thomas spots Tech. Sgt. Tommy Reid, both from the 347th Medical Group here, at the Freedom I Fitness Center Feb. 7. They began working out together after finding out they both had high cholesterol, and the best way to combat cholesterol is with proper exercise and diet. (Photo by Senior Airman S.I. Fielder)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. - Senior Master Sgt. Frederick Thomas spots Tech. Sgt. Tommy Reid, both from the 347th Medical Group here, at the Freedom I Fitness Center Feb. 7. They began working out together after finding out they both had high cholesterol, and the best way to combat cholesterol is with proper exercise and diet. (Photo by Senior Airman S.I. Fielder)

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- A trip to the 347th Medical Group, here, revealed some shocking news for two Airmen who thought they were at the top of their game. 

Senior Master Sgt. Frederick Thomas, 347th Maintenance Training Flight superintendent, can run one-and-a-half miles in less than 10 minutes and 30 seconds. But that didn’t change the fact he had a total cholesterol count of 188 and a low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, of 119. 

Tech. Sgt. Tommy Reid, 347th Maintenance Training Flight instructor, routinely bench presses 300 pounds, yet had a total cholesterol of 201, with LDL levels, also known as “bad cholesterol,” of 128. 

With desirable ranges of total cholesterol being less than 200, and less than 100 for LDLs, each was on the path which, if left untreated, could result in heart disease or a stroke later in life. 

Sergeant Thomas had his cholesterol checked at a recent unit Commander’s Call, where Maj. LeeAnne Lamer, 347th MDG, gave a health presentation about the importance of monitoring blood glucose levels and cholesterol. 

“She gave me some pamphlets, and she told me some of the things I can do,” he said. “I changed my diet, period.” 

Building up to his cholesterol problem, Sergeant Thomas would typically eat lots of pasta, rice or potatoes for both lunch and dinner. Now, he eats more vegetables, salad, no starches and smaller portions of meat. Although Sergeant Thomas runs three miles a day, five days per week, exercise alone wasn’t enough to lower cholesterol. 

“I always ran,” Sergeant Thomas said. “Exercise alone is not going to do it for you. You have to change your eating habits. I feel good. I like it a lot. I don’t miss the carbohydrates either. I’m going to stay with this lifestyle, and I plan to stick with it.” 

The key to success is diet and proper exercise, said Major Lamer, with emphasis on “proper.” 

“People are putting in the effort; they just need that effort re-directed,” she said. “If you work out beyond your target heart rate, you are essentially giving yourself a cardiac stress test.” 

Major Lamer leads the “Medical Right Start” program which began in February 2005 and educates Moody newcomers about the different health programs available here. 

“We’re trying to get the word out about the things we can do,” she said. “We’re lucky we have a cholesterol clinic with a doctor of pharmacy who specializes in cholesterol management.” 

A former training instructor for Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Sergeant Reid had his cholesterol checked during his newcomer’s orientation. 

“At first, I thought it was a waste of time,” he said. “But when I saw my numbers, I knew it was a great thing.” 

Sergeant Reid admits to eating a lot of carbohydrates prior to learning about his high cholesterol. In fact, he admits to eating pretty much anything he wanted. 

“I was at Lackland, so I ate everything on the chow line,” said Sergeant Reid.
He lifts weights and does a cardio workout three times per week, but like Sergeant Thomas now understands that diet is key. 

“I feel great now,” Sergeant Reid said. “I’m not sluggish, and I come to work with a good attitude. I feel like I can lift the gym.” 

Because they work together and both have a competitive attitude, their personal battles with cholesterol became a friendly competition. 

“I thought I was good runner until I met Sergeant Thomas,” said Sergeant Reid. “But I’m not racing with him - I’m racing death.” 

After following Major Lamer’s diet and exercise plan, both have reduced their cholesterol numbers. Sergeant Thomas now has total cholesterol of 106 and his LDLs are 56. Sergeant Reid’s numbers are 152 and 89, respectively. 

“This is still a friendly competition, but we’re both winning,” Sergeant Thomas said.