Health Scares Spur Women Into Action

Posted: February 16, 2013

Margie Frye (left) and Betty Ann Beasley agree that a positive attitude is paramount when looking to improve heart health and overall well-being. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Margie Frye (left) and Betty Ann Beasley — both Belk employees — are taking part in a contest to improve their overall heart health. Each has a history of “silent heart attacks.” (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Betty Ann Beasley, of Broadway, was a stressed-out hostess, slipping out to the grocery store during a dinner party when pain froze her cart in place.

Margie Frye, of Harrisonburg, was about to go into surgery when her anesthesiologist chuckled, “Looks like you had a heart attack.”

Both women overcame the odds — and their own family histories — to stave off heart disease, using diet and exercise.

While working together as associates at the Harrisonburg Belk department store, Beasley andFrye are participating in a contest for heart health awareness. They’re challenged to exercise at least 30 minutes per day, five days a week, and change their eating habits for the better.

So far, through customer and associate fundraising, the Harrisonburg location has topped the list in its region, spanning from as far south as Danville to all Belk stores north of I-64.

For these ladies, however, a shift has come naturally: after each had health scares, they’ve made major lifestyle changes.

Beating Their Own Histories
Beasley’s family tree is rife with heart disease. From a young age, she’s been aware that, if she wasn’t proactive, the clock was ticking on her ticker.

When her blood pressure became uncontrollable and her physician prescribed beta blockers, she was immediately determined to leave medication behind.

“I started in my 30s,” she says. “I wanted to live past 71,” the age by which her uncles had all died of heart disease.

Within a few years of cutting out red meat and sugars, switching to soy milk, loading her plate with vegetables and upping her exercise routine, she checked back in with her doctor.

“He said my valves looked great and wouldn’t have to be replaced. ... It worked,” she said. “I don’t feel 65 ½.

“When I think of age 65, I think of my grandmother ... with the little knot in her hair, an apron, a floral dress ... she looked 65,” Frye said with a laugh.

By contrast, longevity is on her family’s side, with her mother now 92 years old and a grandfather who lived to be 102.

But when she was 28, Frye was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Then in her 50’s, an onslaught of colon cancer, lymphoma and mouth cancer surfaced.

She, too, was determined to stay off medication as much as possible. Frye also cut out red meat, watched her diet more closely and started walking for exercise once confronted with blood pressure medication.

“Due to healthy diet,” she recalled her doctor jotting down, as the reason for taking her off the medication. She’s lost 30 pounds since October, exceeding her goal by 10 pounds.

Awareness, Attitude Key
“A happy attitude,” Beasley notes, is part of their secret to health. “Margie’s happy!” she added as they laughed.

Battling stress, she said, is huge for heart health. When she was pushing her cart in the grocery store, she was in a frazzled rush — and wrote off a heart attack as indigestion.

Being honest and assertive, with oneself as well as with doctors, is important, she said.

“If every woman would just know, to be aware of their body, and keep it in mind that things can be going on,” she said. “If you change your diet and exercise, you can live a long life. ... You can repair what’s been done.”

Contact Samantha Cole at (540) 574-6274 or

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