Minnesota is a leader in health, yet we still have the same health issues as any other part of the country—tobacco use, rising levels of obesity, and not enough people getting regular physical activity.

Companies like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (Blue Cross) are working hard to encourage physical activity in the community through their do® campaign, based on guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Heart Association.

“We are committed to working on health improvement at the individual, family, workplace and community levels in order to keep Minnesota a leader in health,” explains Patrick Geraghty, president and CEO of Blue Cross.

Blue Cross leads and collaborates with numerous programs to benefit the health of Minnesotans such as: sponsors Nice Ride Minnesota, set to launch in Minneapolis in 2010 as the largest bike sharing program in the U.S.; provides funding to more than 50 communities since 2006 to help foster physical activity by making communities more walkable and bikable; helps lead advocacy efforts along with the American Heart Associaton for a statewide “complete streets” policy that would ensure our roads are designed and built with safety and accessibility for all users in mind including pedestrians; provides funding to several employers to increase physical activity and healthy eating within the workplace; offers fitness discounts on gym memberships to members who work out 12 or more times per month; and supports legislation spearheaded by the Heart Association to reinstate physical education standards in our state’s K-12 schools as a way to help reduce childhood obesity.

Geraghty, who is a Start! Heart Walk co-chair along with Elliot Jaffee of U.S. Bank, can’t stress enough the importance of eating healthy and regular exercise.

“Approximately 2.4 million adult Minnesotans are overweight or obese, resulting in increased risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoarthritis, and colon cancer,” he says. “Blue Cross is working with the American Heart Association and the community to change that statistic.”

Six Minnesotans who faced obesity head on and won are stars of the new do® campaign commercials from Blue Cross. These Minnesotans volunteered to tell their struggles about getting healthy as a way of inspiring others to tackle their own personal weight challenges. The Blue Cross campaign is part of an aggressive effort to curb and reverse the state’s increasing obesity trend. Here is one of the six stories.

Do Tell: Kathleen’s Story

Name: Kathleen Evers

City: Millville, Minnesota

My story: Four years ago I had many health problems: borderline liver function, borderline diabetes, poor bladder control, lymphoedema (I had to wear compression stretch bandages and take water pills), and my knees were constantly in pain. An orthopedist said I needed knee replacements but refused to do the surgery because of my weight; so I took pain medication. I had allergy and exercise-induced asthma for which I used three different inhalers. I had severe sleep apnea.

At the age of 48, a doctor told me that I was dangerously and imminently morbidly obese. He told me that if I wanted to live into my 50s I would need gastric bypass surgery.

I was devastated and I was mad about what he said because I felt he was telling me I was too weak to do it myself. In this case, the anger was good. It motivated me to do something. I joined a fitness center—subsidized by Blue Cross—which motivated me to make sure I went at least 12 times a month.

I was losing nearly five pounds a week when I was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent six months of chemotherapy. The chemo caused cirrhosis of the liver and an enlarged heart. I gained 10 pounds. Again, I returned to the fitness center. I started feeling better and, at age 49, decided to make my 50s great years.

It was hard to fit gym time into my schedule. So I joined a 24-hour gym, Anytime Fitness, which also offered discounts to Blue Cross members. I set lots of little goals, like being able to stay on the elliptical for more than two minutes without it telling me to “pedal faster!” My overall goal was to lose 100 pounds in a year. I hit that goal four months early.

My advice for those who need to lose weight to improve their health is to start with what I call the three F’s: faith, family, and friends. Have faith in yourself, surround yourself with positive friends and family, and start your journey. Set small goals, don’t beat yourself up about how much you weigh, and keep moving forward to make a positive change.

Today, my total weight loss is 191 pounds. I did not have bypass surgery. I just changed my eating habits and increased my activity.

I have no liver disease or diabetes and my heart has returned to normal size. I don’t need medication for bladder control or lymphoedema; I don’t need compression bandages. My knees are pain-free, I have used a rescue inhaler only once in the last year. I no longer have exercise-induced asthma.

I still go to the gym and walk every day. I incorporate exercise into my daily life by taking the stairs and parking at the far end of the parking lot. I am so appreciative of being able to move now that I want to be as active as I can. Last year I went mountain climbing in the Adirondacks. I’ve gone from being “dangerously and imminently morbidly obese” to being energetic, strong, and enjoying life to its fullest!

Share your Health Living story online at and your story may be honored at the Heart Walk with a “Start! Lifestyle Change Award.”