50 and fit
By Gavin Oliver
SENECA — Seemingly healthy due to years of eating right and taking care of himself, the Rev. Greg Oraham, pastor of Foothills Community Church, avoided annual physical checkups. In May 2011, he changed his mind and completed a physical examination — and his doctor added some advice Oraham believes saved his life.
“‘Hey, now that you’re 50, there’s this test you ought to just take,’” Oraham recalled his doctor saying. “‘Your insurance company won’t cover it. It’s called a cardiac score test.’”
Oraham, who was exercising regularly and playing basketball three days a week, decided to pursue a $100 examination of his arteries and heart to check for plaque buildup.
About a week later, Oraham received news about his test that was concerning. His numbers were off the charts.
On a scale of zero to 400 of plaque buildup, he scored a dangerous 1100. Zero indicates no buildup, and 400 or above signals hazardous levels.
Following another test with similar results, Oraham underwent a cardiac catheterization that revealed four blockages in his heart — two of them severe enough to require heart stents.
“I’m on a stretcher getting wheeled in there, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘How in the world did this happen?’ I’m the guy who’s always exercising, concerned with how he’s eating,’” he said. “I’m coming out of there totally frustrated, and I’m fearful because you start thinking, ‘Is this how it’s going to end?’”
Oraham worked to stay in good shape prior to the physical examination and said though his condition was caused by a hereditary issue, “it was a major wake-up call.”
“When I got out of surgery I thought about two things. I will do everything I can within my power to make sure it doesn’t happen again, and the second vow I made was to get into the best shape of my life, which I’ve since done that,” he said.
Three years later, at age 54, he remains committed to his fitness efforts, which he started 10 days after surgery. He has even become a certified trainer and follows a Paleo diet, which excludes sugars and processed foods.
“I’ve gotten stronger than I have ever been, and I can do more than I’ve ever done,” Oraham said. “I’ve always been in good shape, but I’ve taken it to another level.”
He remembers walking along a beach in Florida a year after his surgery and posting a picture on Twitter of his new-found physique that was, and remains, the product of countless hours of sweat, grit and goal-oriented exercise. One fellow pastor even called Oraham the “sexiest preacher he has ever met.”
“My pastor friends razz me all the time,” Oraham said. “My body had significant changes. I’m 6-percent body fat, really lean. And I was on the beach, and I just put a picture on my Twitter and tweeted it, and it blew up. All my pastor friends, they’re razzing me, but they’re asking, ‘How do you do this?’ Because most of (the clergy) is burning the candle on both ends, they’re at every social, they’re eating wrong and they’re not exercising.”
The feedback has Oraham wanting to spread his fitness to others in both the pastoral community and the area’s population, and he’s doing his part to make that happen.
Oraham hopes to launch a website for his Pastorfit ministry by the end of the month. The purpose of Pastorfit is to give tools to help ministers get in shape free of charge. He also expects to break ground on a “Still Fit at 50” project in the next six months for middle-aged people. One 63-year-old man has already expressed interest.
“The things in our lives that are the most traumatic tend to really shock us into some sort of realization that hey, you’re not going to live forever,” Oraham said.
“And I guess I was one of these guys who said I’m going to be the rare guy who doesn’t succumb to getting older.”
For more about Oraham’s story, visit his blog at gregoraham.blogspot.com/2012/04/lets-talk-about-health.html.