Health screening provided a ‘wake-up call’ for IU’s Akash Shah

Guest post courtesy of Inside IU writer April Toler

Before and after pics of Akash Shah

Shah: “I was like, ‘Let’s just go for a screening and we’ll find out whatever.’”

When Akash Shah walked into the IU Health Center at Indiana University Bloomington more than a year ago, he knew he was overweight.

But it was the word “obese” — and the idea that his weight might one day contribute to him developing diabetes — that triggered a major lifestyle change for the IU lead project-systems analyst.

“That was the wake-up call,” Shah said. “I was like, ‘I need to do something about it.’ I didn’t care until then.”

For the past two years, IU has offered health screenings — with a $100 incentive — to full-time academic and staff employees and spouses or same sex domestic partners covered by an IU medical plan.

Coordinated through Healthy IU, the screenings take approximately 30 minutes and include a meeting with a health educator who takes height, weight and blood pressure and calculates the participant’s BMI. The health educator also talks with participants about those numbers, answers any questions, provides a copy of the information, and informs them of campus resources according to their person interest.

Participants then see a phlebotomist who tests blood for total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar. Anyone whose results are outside of the normal range receive a phone call from Elin Grimes, a registered dietitian and nutrition counselor at IU, but are not required to undergo any follow-up appointments.

The screenings are not intended to keep tabs on employees or their partners, Grimes said, but are meant to share biometric numbers that can be predictors for long-term health outcomes.

“Basically, it’s to get people in the door, to start talking about their health and to refer them on to other resources or to their personal health care providers as needed,” Grimes said.

For Akash, the screening, like his health, wasn’t really something he took too seriously at first.

“I didn’t care as far as my lifestyle and diet or what I put in my mouth,’ he said. “I was like, ‘Let’s just go for a screening and we’ll find out whatever.'”

What he found out was that at 5-foot-10-inches and 218 pounds, Shah’s BMI was in the obese range. Although all of his tests came back fine, Shah was cautioned that if he continued down his current path, his lifestyle — and a family history of diabetes — could lead him to develop the disease.

So Shah set out to change his lifestyle. He dusted off the treadmill that had been sitting in his house unused for three years and began running. He eliminated soda from his diet, asked his wife to make small adjustments to the meals she prepared, and began watching his portions.

Shah also kept up a daily exercise routine. When pain in his knees no longer allowed him to run, he switched to walking.

In close to 10 months, he had lost 60 pounds, which for the most part he has kept off. Having lost the weight of a small child, Shah said he feels great and is more energetic. Although he didn’t lose the weight for vanity reasons, he is enjoying the positive response he has received from family and coworkers.

With photos of his former self on his cellphone, Shah is also determined to keep the weight off.

“I think if you set your mind to something, you can do whatever you want,” he said. “I’m a strong-willed person and if I decide something, I am able to do it, and I did it.”

More information about health screenings is available on the Healthy IU website. Invitations for screenings are emailed to employees or their partners alphabetically by last name, but participants do not have to wait for an invite to schedule an appointment. Eligible participants will receive the $100 incentive each fiscal year, which runs July 1 through June 30.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,