RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Maddie Smith is tearing it up in the gym. With encouragement from her trainer, Maddie flips massive tires, runs sprints and more.
“I can have fun working out, and I don’t even know I’m losing all this stuff,” the nine-year-old says.
About two years ago, Maddie was diagnosed with high blood pressure. During her soccer games, it was hard to keep up.
“It felt like I was overheating and needed water every second,” Maddie remembers.
“Her face would turn bright red every single time she tried to run up and down the field,” Maddie’s mom Lori Lohr Smith adds.
Lori describes Maddie’s growth during that period as ‘off the charts,’ and both sides of the family battle high blood pressure. Still, she never expected her child would be diagnosed at such an early age.
“Very concerned and surprised,” Lori says.
Jeannette Cordor, the Founder and CEO of Faces of Hope Virginia, started her program eleven years ago to combat childhood obesity in the Richmond area. One out of every five kids now enrolled has a metabolic condition, like high blood pressure.
“Things that we will see in older adults as our grandmothers, great-grandmothers and now we’re truly seeing it in our children today,” Cordor explains. “What they’re starting out at the age of eight, ten or twelve, these are life-long issues that will continue if we don’t stop them now.”
Maddie joined Faces of Hope in September 2016 after taking blood pressure medicine for a couple of years. The program taught her about the importance of good nutrition and regular exercise.
“I can actually do it and set a goal for myself,” says Maddie. “And I actually can reach it.”
Maddie is off medicine now, and Faces of Hope also helped her understand what lowering her blood pressure means for her future.
“I have seen my daughter blossom into a confident, independent, awesome young woman who makes healthy choices about eating,” Lori beams with pride. “It’s been a miracle in our lives.”
The American Heart Association identified the Salty Six, foods to limit because they contain so much sodium that contributes to high blood pressure. They include cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, canned soups, bread and rolls, seasoned chicken, along with burritos and tacos.