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The Brenda Warner Interview

Protecting the Quarterback
An Interview with Brenda Warner

Gary Barg:  You are a trained nurse and a mother of seven. When you found that your athlete husband was diagnosed with high cholesterol, what did you do? How did you feel?

Brenda Warner: It was just very much a shock to me, knowing how much he takes care of his body, and this was when he was in the NFL. And he was young and so active and would eat right. It just was a real shocker. So, as we dove into it and learned more, we found out that his dad suffers from high cholesterol also. It was just an eye opener and he was even more shocked than I was. Then he came to the point where he was thinking, well, what do I need to do? And in talking to his doctor, he found out he would need to go on a statin. Well, heís not a pill taker. He isnít good with that. He really kind of dug his feet in and said, ďI donít want to have to do this.Ē It was one of those conversations where you say, ďYou know what? This is what you have to deal with. Letís figure out a plan and be able to manage it as best we can with the decisions we make from now on.Ē

Gary Barg: Statins are, of course, the most commonly prescribed medicine for high cholesterol. But can you tell me what it means when you hear that word?

Brenda Warner: People think statins are all the same. Kurt went on a statin that had some side effects. He had some muscle aches. Now heís on his third statin and it is working for him. So, not all statins are the same. Thatís the number one thing you need to know. Donít put them all in the same bucket. Heís doing well now. Heís managing his cholesterol. It is staying lower. He is eating right and staying healthy also. But thatís why we want to get the word outójust to give people more information.

Gary Barg:  So, itís not simply behavior. Itís not as if as an NFL player he was eating a side of beef every day.

Brenda Warner:  Right.

Gary Barg: Itís also genetic.

Brenda Warner: It is, and a very small amount of people really can manage their cholesterol with just diet and just exercise. You can get great information on FirstandGoalHeartHealth.com.

Gary Barg: Iím glad you brought that up. What should we know about it?

Brenda Warner: Being married to a former football player, a game plan is so important. I remember the nights before the games and heíd have his game plan in front of him. And it would be all that he would concentrate on because, basically, it was the only way that he was going to reach his goal of winning that game. So, it helps if you set up a game plan with your family, with your doctor, and just take small steps to get thereójust like the first down, second down and third down. You need small steps.

Gary Barg: You brought up a very interesting point about communicating with the doctors. I think youíre right. If you and Kurt didnít recognize the muscle aches as a side effect of the medication and asked about it, you wouldnít be playing your best role in the game.

Brenda Warner: Right. Itís vital to be honest and really get as much information as you can and bring it to the doctor and say, you know, this is whatís going on, this is whatís working. And then, if it doesnít work, you need to go back again. The statistics on the number of people who quit taking their statins after that first year are alarming, because you probably still feel the same as you did before taking the medication. So, itís a really difficult process to have somebody understand that if they take a pill that doesnít make them feel any differently, that itís still important. You need to be honest with your doctor and set a game plan, and continue with your medication even if you donít feel differently. It is a struggle. It is a commitment. But you need to be dedicated because weíre only given this one life. Weíre in this together. So, we just need to work together with the doctor and our families.

Gary Barg: We hear about statins and we hear about good cholesterol. We hear about bad cholesterol. What are the negative effects of not dealing with your high cholesterol?

Brenda Warner:  There are so many effects that could happen. Kurtís dad had major heart surgery during the Super Bowl weekend and couldnít come out to the Super Bowl because he was dealing with these heart issues. I mean, it is crucial that people deal with it as soon as they can because you just donít understand all the ways it can just shorten your life. And with seven kids, Kurt needs to be around. He needs to be around a long time to help me raise these kids and to see our grandkids. Itís crucial for people to take that ball into their hands and to make a game plan.

Gary Barg: Has this awareness changed your outlook on healthy lifestyle for your kids as well as Kurt?

Brenda Warner: It definitely has. We have children ranging from 24 down to eight years old. So, for the younger kids, itís just setting up a healthy lifestyle for them. Itís me trying to put in vegetables when they donít know theyíre in there and trying to talk about a well-balanced diet. Itís a challenge to balance life for everybody and to make them understand that. Yep, Kurt got that gene from his dad who, by the way, is named Gene and has high cholesterol. Thereís a chance that you will have it, so letís talk about it. Letís figure out ways that we can take care of your heart at any age. And you know, it better trickle down into our kids. Thatís why weíre hereĖto raise kids that are going to live long, happy lives also. So, yes, it has made a difference in our family.

Gary Barg: If you and the loved one youíre caring for donít know your status on your cholesterol, it sounds like the very next thing you should be doing is going to your doctor and getting blood tests.

Brenda Warner: Exactly! Kurt was about 35, I believe, when he was diagnosed. And being a professional athlete, if he hadnít been tested yearly in the NFL, itís scary to think of how long it might have been until he got a test. So, yes, everybody needs to get tested and start there.

Gary Barg: What would be the most important tips youíd like to share with family caregivers about caring for their loved ones regarding high cholesterol?

Brenda Warner: Itís honestly sitting down and making a game plan, talking about what youíre going to discuss with your doctor, and learning more about the different statins that are available, learning about healthy lifestyle, learning about exercise, implementing what you need to implement into your life to have a well-balanced, healthy life. Take that game plan to your doctor and start there.