Andy Turner’s family history speaks for itself. “My grandfather had a heart attack at the age of 35 and both my grandfather and father, a retired firefighter, have diabetes,” says the 30-year-old Turner. Still, his own health was far from Turner’s mind back when he was a high school football athlete, weighing in at 210 pounds. Fast forward to 2005, when a series of events began that forced him to confront his health risks.
Turner rolled his ankle while on duty as a career firefighter for the City of Middletown, OH, tearing ligaments that required reparative surgery. Before the surgery, Turner was unable to do much physical activity, which did not help his already increasing weight. “I thought eating pizza and drinking beer after midnight was a great lifestyle in college and my habits didn’t really improve much after, until I stepped back and realized what my bad habits were doing to my health,” explains Andy.
In 2006 Turner stopped by the NVFC Heart-Healthy Firefighter booth at FDIC in Indianapolis, IN, to get his free blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose screenings. As a member of the Hazardous Materials team for his department, Turner is required to get a full physical every two years. His next physical was due about a month after FDIC, but Turner decided it couldn’t hurt to get his numbers checked at the booth in the meantime. What he found shocked him.
“Receiving the results at FDIC really got me thinking about the risks I faced,” Turner says. “I had thought about it before because of my family history, but seeing the hard numbers was really a wake up call.”
The full physical just re-confirmed what Turner knew. His weight was at a personal high of 286 pounds and the doctor told him he could be diagnosed with diabetes in as little as five years. Under the close direction of his doctor, Turner made the decision to take control of his weight and have LAP-BAND surgery, which is a minimally invasive surgical method used to help reduce the capacity of the stomach as well as the amount of food he would be able to eat at one sitting. Post-surgery, Turner also met with a dietician to help evaluate his nutritional needs, as it was important for him to learn how to eat to sustain his strength and stamina throughout the day.
“I have a two-year-old daughter and I want to be there to walk her down that aisle. I also love my job and my ability to perform my duties has greatly increased,” says Turner.
Since late summer of 2006, Turner has lost over 60 pounds. His cholesterol is down to 150, his fasting glucose levels are “pre-diabetic,” and he has improved overall cardiovascular health. Turner has lost seven inches from his waistline, going from a 42 to a size 35. “My self esteem has been raised and I have increased energy to be more active with my three growing children,” says Turner of the positive changes he has noticed. Turner offers this advice to others: “I have been a firefighter for 13 years. Change is difficult, especially in the fire service. But with the support of your brother and sister firefighters and family you can accomplish and maintain a healthy lifestyle.”