With her blood pressure at 160 over 100, Antoinette Paris was determined to do whatever it took to avoid suffering a stroke, as her father had. But she never imagined she would dance her way back to health! Find out how Antoinette discovered Zumba, and why it helped her so much more than other forms of exercise.
Living With High Blood Pressure
Am I having a heart attack? Antoinette Paris panicked as a sharp pain in her chest hit her out of nowhere. The 63-year-old Washington, D.C., attorney was walking home from work as usual, but as she tried to catch her breath, she knew something was amiss. My chest feels like it’s going to explode, she thought, finally arriving home. Once the pain wore off, Antoinette tried to console herself: After all, her long, stressful work week could’ve been the cause.
“Maybe I’m coming down with something?” she offered, explaining her symptoms to her doctor. But when her EKG came back abnormal, Antoinette grew alarmed. She was diagnosed with high blood pressure — the same issue that had caused her dad’s stroke, and ultimately, his death. But even after going on medication, her numbers were still soaring at 160 over 100.
Antoinette saw a cardiologist, who adjusted her medication. But her blood pressure still wouldn’t stabilize. Feeling trapped in her job and her situation, she fell into a depression. I feel like my life is over, she despaired.
In search of answers, Antoinette went for another round of tests, which showed she had mitral valve prolapse, a syndrome that can cause shortness of breath, palpitations and irregular heartbeat. “I recommend strenuous exercise three times a week to strengthen your heart,” her doctor advised.
Antoinette decided to join a gym. Immediately, Zumba — a cardio workout focusing on salsa dance — caught her eye. Seeing it as the perfect blend of high and low-intensity exercise and a fun dance that made the time fly, Antoinette decided to give it a try.
At her first in-person class, Antoinette found herself struggling to keep up, and with her hectic work schedule, was unable to make the classes often. So, she decided to buy a Zumba workout DVD made by the creator of Zumba, Alberto “Beto” Perez, and do it every morning.
Her first DVD, Zumba 101: Can’t Dance? (Buy from Amazon, $9.99), was an introduction to simple steps, which left Antoinette feeling empowered after each 30-minute class. As she continued, she began advancing through the set of DVDs, which increased in difficulty as she went along.
Soon, Antoinette found herself feeling stronger and doing Zumba six times a week. At the end of the year, she went back to her doctor for more testing. “It’s amazing!” her doctor marveled. “Your blood pressure is perfect — 119 over 71 — and your heart muscle is stronger than ever!”
Today, the now-71-year-old feels better than ever, still doing her Zumba workouts for 45 minutes, five days a week. “I feel like I’m 20 years younger!” she cheers. “I have my ‘joie de vivre’ back and am looking forward to many healthy years ahead!”
Curious about the benefits of dance? Find out why dance classes like Zumba are amazing for your health. And if you’re interested in other forms of dance, learn about the benefits of belly dancing!
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This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.