You are using an older version of Internet Explorer that is not supported on this site. Please upgrade for the best experience.

Preventing heart disease: one man’s holistic approach to wellness

Dean Hudson was 63 when he started marathon training. Concerned with a family history of heart disease and with his own heart health, he knew he had to do something.
Category: Cardiology

When Hudson was nine years old, his father had his first heart attack. Feeling confused and scared, he witnessed his dad being sick and slowly gaining his strength back. “Eventually he was strong enough to make it to the kitchen, then the front porch, and then eventually he was able to take a walk.”

After that first heart attack, his father was given a 50/50 chance of dying from a second heart attack within five years. Just shy of that five year mark, when Hudson was 14, his father suffered a fatal heart attack. He was devastated.

Coping with Loss and Aging

During that difficult period of his young life, Hudson joined track and field. Running “connected with him” and helped him cope.

49 years later, Hudson began marathon training a couple months after his daughter’s 14th birthday.

“I was realizing that I was getting older, feeling limitations. But there are things we can do to age healthier – both physically and mentally.”

Healthy Practices for Heart and Mind

In order to stay healthy, Hudson monitors his cholesterol and diet, and also practices yoga. But he wanted to do more to address his health concerns proactively.

“I started running after decades of not running, so marathon training was a good motivator,” he says. “I want to stay as healthy as I can, for as long as I can – for myself and for my daughter.”

Hudson has seen a cardiologist in the past, with a focus on preventive care. He focuses on healthy eating, and practices and teaches Kripalu yoga – he even taught yoga for cardiac rehabilitation patients at Baystate Health’s Tolosky Center in Springfield for a time. He describes Kripalu as “an approach to teaching gentle yoga, starting wherever people are and promoting a sense of well-being and relaxation.”

Hudson has also been careful to never take up smoking.

“Although my dad wanted to do everything he could to reduce his risk of a heart attack and tried to stop smoking many, many times, he was never able to succeed. That attests to the power of the addiction. After seeing that, I never once considered taking up the habit.”

Reducing Stress and Gaining New Energy

With the go-ahead from his doctor to start marathon training, Hudson began working toward his ultimate goal of running in the Boston Marathon in 2020. He started by training for a marathon in Newport, RI.

Through a year of training, each time he ran a longer distance, Hudson noticed the motivating effect of “always breaking a record or exceeding myself.” By beating his own personal records, he experienced “victory after victory after victory.” Right away, he had a boost in confidence and energy. He had a sense of accomplishment and felt empowered. For Hudson, this sense of vitality was more than just good health; he felt a new energy and overall sense of well-being.

On October 7, 2018, Hudson completed his first marathon in Newport. Now he’ll continue working toward running in the Boston Marathon, which will be the fulfilment of a childhood dream.

Talk to Your Doctor before Starting an Exercise Routine

Your doctor can help you start the right exercise program for you.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should consult your doctor before starting a demanding exercise routine if two or more of the following apply to you:

  • You're older than 35 years.
  • You have a family history of heart disease before age 60.
  • You smoke or you quit smoking in the past six months.
  • You don't normally exercise for at least 30 minutes, most days of the week.
  • You're significantly overweight.
  • You have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
  • You have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or you have impaired glucose tolerance (also called prediabetes).