June 16, 2010

Tilly Lotspeich is clearly a woman in charge. You’d have to be, to be a female owner of car dealerships, and to make a success of them in the current economic climate. Lotspeich took over the family-run GM dealership in Warrensburg, Mo., five years ago after her husband died of a heart attack. Lotspeich has been running the business, raising two kids, putting one through college, helping support other family members—and vacuuming her house at 2 a.m. Clearly, she’s a woman in charge of everything.

Except her health.

“I’m a huge multitasker,” Lotspeich, 61, said. “The stress started creeping in.”

Sleepless in Missouri

Was it any wonder? Lotspeich was clocking 16-hour workdays six days a week. That left little time for sleeping—a moot point for Lotspeich. Since she was a child, Lotspeich has gotten by on three hours of sleep a night.

Her diet reflected the kind of stress she was under. “I ate drive-up-window food for years,” Lotspeich said.

Fortunately, last year Lotspeich signed up for the Saint Luke’s Women in Training program. The seven-week fitness program focuses on women’s heart health. It includes a blood test that checks for cholesterol and stress levels as well as for diabetes and thyroid disorders.

Women are encouraged to take part in the six-month follow-up portion of the program to help keep them motivated to develop heart-healthy diets and lifestyles.

“Raising awareness about heart health is great, but we also want to see how much we can affect results,” said Michelle Dew, M.D., the Saint Luke’s cardiologist who spearheads this part of the program.

But Lotspeich, the ultimate doer, didn’t take up the challenge— even though she was shocked to learn she had high cholesterol and was considered high risk. How could that be? It’s not like she was having a heart attack. No way was she going to succumb to taking cholesterol medication.

“Tilly was in major denial,” said Marcia McCoy, R.N., M.S.N., director of Saint Luke’s Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center, which sponsors the program. “She was a hard egg to crack; she’d had to pick up the pieces of her life so many times.”

Type A earns an A

Luckily, Lotspeich came back for the program in 2009. Perhaps just in time: Her new lab results had gone from bad to worse. Her cholesterol in particular needed immediate attention. That was when McCoy said the magic words to the ultimate doer, words no one had ever before said to Lotspeich.

“Marcia said to me, ‘You’re just not getting it done,’” said Lotspeich. “I had failed. Then I thought, ‘It’s just a little pill.’” The next day, Lotspeich started taking cholesterol medication. It was a start, and a good one. Lotspeich now works out with weights three times a week and takes her dog for a walk every night. In 2009, she took her first vacation in five years.

And no more drive-through food: Lotspeich is pursuing a diet of proteins, fruits, vegetables and zero processed foods. Her goal is to lose 33 pounds and to whittle her waist to the optimal size.

“As your waist grows, so does your health risk for things like heart disease and diabetes,” said McCoy, who introduced a waist-watching element to this year’s program. “As a general rule, women’s waists should be less than 35 inches.”

The toughest challenge for Lotspeich has been getting more sleep. She’s off caffeine, but a lifetime of sleep deprivation can take some time to turn around.

“I’m trying to get four hours a night,” Lotspeich said. Little by little, she’s getting it done. Lotspeich’s turnaround has been so dramatic, she was named Saint Luke’s 2009 Heart Healthy Woman of the Year. She has also, at McCoy’s invitation, joined the Saint Luke’s Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center Advisory Council.

Lotspeich is still a Type A, but with a difference.

“I feel 100 percent better,” she said. “I now realize it’s possible to feel good and be in control.”

To schedule an appointment for a heart risk assessment at the innovative new Muriel I. Kauffman Women’s Heart Center, or to learn more, call (816) 932-5100.