American Heart Association Announces 2017 "Real People. Real Change." Award Winners

September 11, 2017

Seven central Indiana residents were recognized for living healthier lives and inspiring others as part of the American Heart Association's "Real People. Real Change." program sponsored by UnitedHealthcare. Each award winner received a pair of custom-designed athletic shoes, and their employers received a $1,000 grant from UnitedHealthcare in support of their employee wellness programs. The "Real People. Real Change." recipients are (front row l to r) Debbie Drake, Misty Ackles-Dumas, Karla Sam; (back row l to r) Rick Huffman, Ken Frank, Ivan Bohannon, Philip Thomas (Photo courtesy of American Heart Association).

  • Award recipients made significant lifestyle changes to improve their heart health
  • Winners were honored at the Indianapolis Heart Walk on Saturday

Seven central Indiana residents were selected as winners of the American Heart Association's "Real People. Real Change." program sponsored by UnitedHealthcare. The winners were recognized for living healthier lives and inspiring others.

The recipients were introduced at the Indianapolis Heart Walk Saturday, Sept. 9, and will represent the American Heart Association as ambassadors at select events in 2017 and 2018. Each recipient received a pair of custom-designed athletic shoes, and their employers each received a $1,000 grant from UnitedHealthcare in support of their employee wellness programs.

"UnitedHealthcare is grateful for the opportunity to recognize these seven inspiring people who are taking action to improve their heart health and the health of their families, friends and co-workers," said Dan Krajnovich, president and CEO, UnitedHealthcare of Indiana. "These 'Real People. Real Change.' winners are shining examples of how making even small changes to our lifestyles can lead to dramatic improvements in our health."

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, causing one in three deaths each year. Some heart disease risk factors include family history and aging; however, up to 80 percent of heart disease is preventable by making small changes to lead a heart-healthy lifestyle.

The seven winners correspond to the seven factors for ideal heart health that make up the American Heart Association's "Life's Simple 7":

  • Manage Blood Pressure
  • Control Cholesterol
  • Reduce Blood Sugar
  • Get Active
  • Eat Better
  • Lose Weight
  • Stop Smoking

The "Real People. Real Change." Award winners and their employers are:

Manage Blood Pressure: Philip Andrew Thomas of Clayton – Hendricks Regional Health

Thomas committed to getting healthy in April 2016. By changing his diet and increasing his exercise, his blood pressure decreased from 150/95 to 100/60, and he was able to reduce his medication.

Control Cholesterol: Ivan Bohannon of Indianapolis – Angie's List

Last December, Bohannon's triglyceride reading was more than 400 and his LDL, or bad cholesterol, was 250, putting him at high risk for heart disease and stroke. He began exercising at least three times per week and eliminated added sugar and extra carbohydrates from his diet. His triglyceride reading dropped to 100 and his LDL declined to 190. He no longer takes medication for his cholesterol.

Reduce Blood Sugar: Ken Frank of Brownsburg – JP Morgan Chase

Two years ago, Frank was diagnosed with diabetes. In August 2016, he started low-impact exercise classes. In one year, he has made tremendous strides and is no longer taking insulin. His A1C reading, which indicates average levels of blood glucose, dropped from 14.2 to 5.6, and he's lost 50 pounds.

Get Active: Debbie Drake of Avon – Indiana Wesleyan University

Drake averaged fewer than 4,000 steps per day before starting her current exercise routine. She has since increased to an average of 10,000 steps per day. She sets an alarm to get up and be active for 10 minutes every hour. Drake overcame many obstacles during this journey to a healthy lifestyle, including the loss of her husband, a total knee replacement and complications following the surgery that left her hospitalized for four days.

Eat Better: Karla Sam of McCordsville – Davita Kidney Care

Sam made a commitment to eating healthier in February 2016. This included carefully watching portion sizes and avoiding overeating. She cut back on the amount of processed foods she ate and replaced them with fresh fruits and vegetables. She also began packing breakfast, lunch and healthy snacks to help her stay on track. Sam has lost 37 pounds and enjoys her increased energy level when playing with her young children.

Lose Weight: Rick Huffman of Sheridan – CNO Financial Group

For Huffman, the motivation to change his lifestyle came in August 2016 when doctors told his wife and son that their health was in jeopardy due to their weight. Huffman realized his bad eating habits were influencing his entire family. He started eating smaller meals throughout the day and replaced junk food with fruits and vegetables. He also started exercising more frequently. As a result, Huffman reduced his blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose numbers, and he's lost more than 120 pounds.

Stop Smoking: Misty Ackles-Dumas of Indianapolis – MSD Lawrence Township

Ackles-Dumas started smoking at a very early age. By the time she reached high school, she was smoking up to three packs per week. The impetus to finally quit came late in 2016 when her mother became ill and passed away. Ackles-Dumas began using a smoking-cessation medication and started a comprehensive exercise program. Within four weeks she had stopped smoking and no longer needed the medication.

Additional information about each winner and the "Real People. Real Change." program is available at

About the American Heart Association  

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation's oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country.

About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, military service members, retirees and their families, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with 1 million physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at or follow @UHC on Twitter.