Heart attack pushes Acworth man to half marathon

Sunday’s field for the “13.1 Atlanta Marathon” in Brookhaven will include Jay Dyer of Acworth. His heart attack two years ago led to the starting line for this race, which at 13.1 miles is half the distance of a regular marathon.

As sales director for an apple grower, I know the benefits of healthy choices. An apple a day …. I had plenty of information like that, but still got caught up in an unhealthy lifestyle.

I smoked cigarettes, enjoyed drinking beer and coffee. I thought landscaping and golf gave me the exercise I needed.

In February 2009, persistent heartburn lead me to my first-ever hospital visit. An EKG showed my heart attack, and immediately I underwent surgery to place seven stents in the lower chamber of my heart.

At 54, I had survived what they called a widowmaker. A doctor asked me my lottery numbers because I had been so lucky. With a loving wife, three children and two grandchildren, I was too young to die.

My first morning back home, I awoke depressed. I could only see my loss, and not the positives. But always a fighter, I took charge of my life.

At 7, I had watched my father drown in front of me in a water-skiing accident. That made me step up as the oldest of three children. I’ve always been instilled with a lot of responsibility.

So after my heart attack, I changed. I quit smoking as my cardiologist requested. I also cut out alcohol, coffee, salt and red meat. I limited processed foods. I base my menu on fresh fruit, vegetables, chicken, and fish.

Walking around the Super Target off U.S. 41 was the beginning of my new journey. The busy lot offered extra comfort. I knew help was close at hand if needed.

I set my goal low for immediate success. I started out doing a half-mile, and gradually moved up.

A log of my exercise and eating has proved invaluable. I joined a gym and began to take charge of the exercise routine that would become part of my life.

I run, walk or bike 100 miles a week. I’m 5-foot-10, and my weight dropped from 230 pounds to 170.

I entered road races partly to associate with people who are making positive things happen. There’s always someone faster or slower, and that makes me try even harder. It’s a wonderful feeling.

My blood pressure today is fine, and my last EKG was perfect. My cholesterol medication has been reduced. My doctors wish they could bottle what I have done for others. People come to me for advice.

For me, a race like this says it’s never too late to change.

Reported by Michelle Hiskey