• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Celebrating healthy-heart lifestyle changes

February 24, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Doctors, patients and their families took time out Thursday for a unique celebration in Glendale -- a celebration of healthy hearts.

One local man says it shouldn't take a brush with death to start thinking about simple changes that could save your life.

As flames from the Station Fire burned dangerously close to Bill Tharp's home, his wife tried to wake him up.

"During that time I didn't breathe and I had no heartbeat," said Tharp.

He would remain lifeless for 34 minutes. Just when paramedics were about to give up, his wife begged them to keep trying.

"They gave me 12 more minutes of CPR, and at 12 minutes, the paramedic said, 'Well, I have a faint heartbeat, so we'll transport him," said bill Tharp

Tharp made a miraculous recovery. Since then, he's lost 70 pounds and exercises regularly at a cardiac fitness center.

"Don't ever give up. Those men didn't give up on me because my wife wouldn't let them. So I'm here today to say something about it," said Tharp.

"This is a celebration today of cardiac wellness. What we are trying to do here is to reward our patients for all the hard work that they've done," said Dr. Lawrence O'Connor, Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center.

Tharp's turnaround tale is one the many success stories being celebrated at Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center.

O'Connor says studies show patients who take part in a supervised cardiac nutrition and fitness program can extend their lives.

"More fish, more fowl -- chicken or turkey -- a lot less beef, a lot of fresh vegetables," said O'Connor. "A really good thing to do is to get an OK from their doctor, and to just start a walking program, building slowly up to where they're walking 30 minutes five days a week."

And just get moving. O'Connor says if Americans would adopt these two simple lifestyle changes, heart disease in this country would decline substantially.

"Probably about half. It might remove about half that risk," said O'Connor.

Tharp says you shouldn't have to nearly die to learn how to live.

"You think there's a magic pill. There's no magic pill, there's just you. And you have to make up your mind to do it yourself," said Tharp.

Thursday's cardiac wellness celebration included ultrasound screenings of the carotid artery, blood-pressure and body-fat checks, as well as food and exercise demonstrations.