A 'Type A' Personality Drives Himself to Better Health

At 62, Frank Feraco is no slouch. A self-proclaimed "overachiever," he has always worked out and been at the top of his game professionally.

"I am a hard charger and in my world, if you are not, you die," Feraco said.

Those same traits made him prone to high blood pressure -- discovered during a physical exam for his life insurance -- as well as stroke and heart attack.

Frank Feraco Frank Feraco

A former president of Kohler Company, executive vice president at Emerson Electric, and now a partner at Great Lakes Equity Partners, Feraco had no intention of scaling back his work responsibilities, but he had to address his health problems.

So he took the recommendation of several friends and came to the University of Chicago Medicine campus for a full-day assessment at the Program for Personalized Health & Prevention, where he met with Ari Levy, MD, clinical associate of medicine. In preparation for the appointment, both men talked the day before by phone so they felt comfortable when they met in person.

During the course of the day, they spent two hours talking about Feraco’s demanding lifestyle and the toll it was starting to take on his health. They also found that his cholesterol was elevated.

"This program worked for me because the relationship didn't end when I left the doctor's office."

"I knew that I needed medications for blood pressure and cholesterol. But I also was very motivated to change what I could control on my own," Feraco recalled. "When I talked with Ari, I began to understand that things I could do -- like cutting out all my Diet Cokes and changing the times of day that I exercised -- would go a long way to correcting my health problems. It took a face-to-face meeting to make me start thinking about how I needed to change some of my habits, and that I could do it without totally disrupting my life."

To control his blood pressure, Feraco and Levy turned to George Bakris, MD, professor of medicine and an internationally known expert in hypertension at the University of Chicago. Bakris' specialized expertise helped to bring Feraco's blood pressure readings back to normal.

Feraco and his physicians developed a customized plan to improve his health by enhancing his exercise routine, altering his diet, and medication.

"These doctor's visits felt different than others I have had -- and I've been to a lot of internists," Feraco said. "They always told me what I should do, but there was never any follow up."

After their first meeting, Levy and Feraco emailed each other several times a week about how he was exercising, and what and when he was eating. Once a month, they reevaluated his progress in person.

Among the changes he made: eating more fish and fruit and drinking more water. He also corrected another huge mistake -- skipping breakfast. Feraco has always exercised, but Levy helped him to vary the types of physical activities for maximum cardio and muscle fitness.

"This program worked for me because the relationship didn't end when I left the doctor's office. Ari and his team of dietitians and exercise physiologists kept me on track," Feraco said.

In seven months, he lost 17 pounds. He sleeps much more soundly—and suspects it’s because he cut out caffeinated beverages.

He also laughs when his wife tells him he looks like he’s 40.

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