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Woman Lost 125 Pounds Despite Heart Condition

Update Date: Jan 21, 2014 10:53 AM EST

Goals, particularly diets, can be hard to complete. However, for people who put their hearts into their tasks, they often end up reaping the benefits of their hard work. For one particular woman, being diagnosed with heart disease did not stop her from losing 125 pounds.

Ever since she was 11-years-old, Heather Kern, now 32, experienced irregularities in her heartbeat. Her heart would race randomly and then return back to its normal speed. Despite the sporadic heartbeats, doctors believed that her heart was normal. With no diagnosis, she continued to take on physical activities, such as hiking or swimming. In August 2008, Kern's heart situation changed.

Two weeks after Kern gave birth to daughter, Cindy, she noticed that her heart started to beat more dramatically. Other symptoms that she had were numbness in her limbs and severe chest pain. Kern sought medical help from a cardiologist in Texas and discovered that she had a heart disease called a left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy.

This heart condition is a congenital disorder in which the muscle fibers located in the lower left chamber of the heart never developed into solid muscles like regular hearts should. These fibers end up affecting heart function. On top of this condition, her doctors believed that she might also have catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, which is characterized by an abnormal heart rhythm and could lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

"My heart felt like a Ping-Pong ball -- it was going crazy speeding up and slowing down," Kern described according to CNN. "I thought I was going to die."

After the diagnoses and series of tests and checkups, Kern had turned to food for comfort and started packing on the pounds. In 2012, Kern joined an online weight loss challenge. The challenge connected strangers who counted calories together in order to lose weight. Kern first cut her daily caloric intake by 500, eating only around 1,200 calories per day. She removed tempting snacks, such as candy, from her household. Within six weeks, the calorie restriction diet helped her lose 20 pounds. On top of that, she had won the online weight loss challenge.

"My mom and grandfather both died in their forties because of this, and they didn't know they had heart disease," she said. "A lot of people have the same kind of thing I have. It's like a totally different ball game when you're trying to lose weight."

After success with limiting her calorie intake and eating fewer snacks, Kern turned to her doctors for exercise advice. She started walking more with her daughter and then worked up to the elliptical, slowly building endurance. Despite how slow the weight loss was, Kern kept her mind in the game. By October 2013, Kern reached her ideal weight of 135 pounds. Two years earlier, she was 260 pounds.

"Some days I go to the gym and my heart isn't cooperating. It feels like it is rattling around," Kern said. "You never push yourself with this disease. They tell you to push yourself at the gym, but you have to listen to your body. But the huge weight-loss proved to me I could still do what I set my mind to. Life wasn't over; it could be wonderful."

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