AHA News: Family’s history of heart disease inspired her fitness — and took her to the base of Mount Everest health news

By By American Heart Association News HealthDay reporter, health day reporter

(health day)

TUESDAY, May 24, 2022 (American Heart Association News) — Lisa Abbott scrolled through the American Alpine Club fundraiser’s online auction listings. As a rock climber, ice climber, diver and marathon runner, she loved dreaming about the various trips up for grabs.

One offer stood out: a guided two-week trek through the Khumbu Valley in Nepal to Mount Everest Base Camp.

As Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Community Affairs at Lifespan, Rhode Island’s largest healthcare system and employer, Lisa couldn’t take a few months off to climb Mount Everest. But reaching base camp at 17,598 feet fitted into their schedule.

“You think I should do that?” she asked her father Gary.

“That’s a terrible idea,” he said playfully.

Gary Abbott, a retired psychiatrist, relocated from California near Lisa’s home in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, in 2019.

Over the years he had grown accustomed to their adventures and the risks involved. But as her father, he also worried about her safety.

On the other hand, he knew that her love of nature came from him.

Gary and his brother used to backpack in the Adirondacks. Although he has never pursued rock climbing, he does follow the sport.

“It’s something that helped us bond—a shared passion for the mountains,” she said.

Lisa was also close to her father’s father, Tom Abbott, and visited him at his home in California as often as she could.

Not only did Tom enjoy a long life, but he was able to live independently until shortly before his death in 2019 at the age of 100. At the age of 84 he contracted coronary artery disease. Open-heart surgery prolonged his life. In the years that followed, doctors used stents to open clogged arteries.

Even though Tom contracted heart disease at an advanced age, it still meant that Gary now had a family history. He was even more at risk because he was overweight and had high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.

In November 2018, Gary had a massive heart attack.

In December 2018 he had another.

Gary told Lisa that he couldn’t believe his bad luck.

“What’s not to believe?” she replied, pointing out all his risk factors.

Seeing what her loved ones had been through, Lisa began to think more about her health. She knows you can’t train a family history away.

“I focus on what I can control,” she said. “I’m very physically active, some would say to a fault I eat healthy and I don’t smoke.”

She is also committed to making others aware of their risks. It’s an effort that spans from her workplace to her community: She chairs the Southern New England Heart Walk on June 11, and she oversees her own team, aptly named “Abbott Adventures.” Her 76-year-old father uses the event as a target date for his own fitness goals, both for weight loss and improved strength.

Another member of Abbott Adventures is Lawrence Sadwin. A longtime AHA volunteer and former national board chairman, he and Lisa have worked together through both the AHA and their company, as he is on the board.

Like Lisa, Sadwin’s father and grandfather both suffered from heart disease. Unlike Lisa, Sadwin’s family history caught up with him at 40. He received a triple bypass and has since had multiple stents to clear blockages in other coronary arteries.

“I’m glad Lisa is ahead of the game,” Sadwin said. “She embodies that type of person who has seen what heart disease has done to her own family and wants to take action.”

Lisa’s active, adventurous spirit overwhelmed her during this online auction. She placed the winning bid and recently returned from the trip of a lifetime.

The trekking to the base of Mount Everest was physically and mentally challenging due to the thin air. But it was worth every effort.

“The view was stunning,” she said. “I’ve spent time on high peaks like the Rockies and Cascades, but these feel like hills.”

Lisa realizes that most people are not as active as she is. So she tries to think about lifestyle choices through the lens of her father and his issues, knowing his story is far more common.

“There are so many risk factors within our control,” she said. “Even small changes can make a big difference.”

American Heart Association News reports on heart and brain health. Not all views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned by the American Heart Association, Inc. and all rights are reserved. If you have any questions or comments about this story, please email editor@heart.org.

By Diane Daniel, News of the American Heart Association

Copyright © 2022 Health Day. All rights reserved.

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