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Keep Moving to Reduce Heart Disease Risk

I heart moving

This article originally appeared in Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates. 

Heart disease doesn't keep Vickie Adkins of Store 1718 in Findlay, Ohio, from an active--and inspiring--life.

“I keep moving. That’s my whole thing. Yes, I keep moving for my heart, but 

I really keep moving for me. I just feel better that way.”

If I’m moving, I just feel better. Always have, always will. When I was diagnosed with heart disease, I was running and cycling regularly, often riding 20 or more miles at a time. That wasn’t unusual for me; that said, I had been a smoker, which is a big risk factor for heart disease. In September 2005, I started having sharp pains in my chest while I was running. They came out of nowhere. I would stop and rock on my heels for five minutes, and then I’d go again.

I was a little worried. My dad had heart disease, and it runs in families, so I consulted a doctor. All the tests kept coming back clear, so I kept going.

That December, I was scheduled for another test—a heart catheterization—to examine my arteries. The day before, I was riding my bike the 6 miles from work to home when I was hit with chest pain so excruciating it knocked me off my bike. I almost lost consciousness. My hands were numb, and my arm was numb; it was the regular pain, only much, much worse. A gentleman stopped and wanted to call an ambulance, but by that time the pain had faded, and I knew I was heading into the hospital the next day, anyway. So I did what I always did: I got back up, hopped on my bike, and rode the rest of the way home.

Heart Attacks
My doctor wasn’t amused. “Vickie,” he said, “you had a heart attack yesterday. In fact, all those times you were having those pains while you were walking or running? They were heart attacks, too.” Then I proceeded to have two more heart attacks—during the heart cath. I watched myself have them on the screen! I remember my doctor hollering, “Get her the nitro now!”

I had an emergency quadruple bypass that day. But two days later, I felt ready to walk. I needed to walk. I like to think I heal best on my feet.

I stayed in the hospital 11 days and went home with piles of pills—cholesterol medication, heart medication, calcium, vitamin D … I’ll be on those forever. My nurses also gave me a handicapped sign. I just kind of chucked that out of the way.

Four Months
It took me four months to get back to my regular routine—one that probably saved my life by keeping me in shape all these years. I get up at 5 a.m. every morning and lift weights. Then I either bike 20 miles or speed walk for about the same amount of time.

I walk in the morning, and I walk during my lunch breaks. I participate in walks for cancer, for heart disease, for the March of Dimes, and for cerebral palsy. If Walmart ever has an event, and I’m not working, I’m there. I’m known around town as “the little girl who walks around.” Customers ask me about it, and strangers often call out to me on the street. I always answer and give a smile, but I keep moving. That’s my whole thing. Yes, I keep moving for my heart, but I really keep moving for me. I just feel better that way.

Bust a Move, Reduce Risk

“Doctors will tell you that many cases of heart disease can be prevented just by moving regularly,” Vickie Adkins says. “You just have to make it a priority.” Here are her tips for doing exactly that.


“Everyone should walk about 10,000 steps every day, the equivalent of about 5 miles,” Vickie says. “Buy a pedometer and track your movement.”


“Buy sets of 1-pound, 3-pound, 5-pound, and 8-pound weights,” Vickie says. “Start with the lightest pair, and lift weights as you walk around or watch TV.”

“If your job requires long periods of standing, get creative,” Vickie says. “If you’re a cashier, do ankle twirls between customers. Do anything you can think of. Just move.”

Note: Always consult your physician before beginning this or any exercise program. This information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have questions about your health or diet, please talk to your doctor.