INSPIRE: Two heart surgeries won’t keep Anne Proppe off the roads

By Matthew Gutierrez

In her early 50s, Anne Proppe gained about 40 pounds. She had stopped exercising so she could focus her energies on raising three daughters in her Baldwinsville home. Her blood pressure rose. 

Anne tried exercise, getting her third-degree black belt in 2005 and running almost every day. But she got shortness of breath. When she visited a doctor, she insisted she had runner’s asthma. She actually had a heart murmur. Before she knew it, Anne was undergoing heart surgery to replace an aortic valve. 

A native of Lafayette, Anne has since dealt with a second heart surgery. But at 68, she shows no signs of slowing down by prioritizing her health: She runs or walks every day with her 3-year-old golden retriever, Riley, the perfect running companion. 

Through it all, Anne’s message stays the same: maintain your health and get your checkups. 

“Watch your diet. Keep your weight down. Exercise is most important,” she said. “Keep yourself busy.”

A few times per week, Anne sees an elderly neighbor to quell loneliness, a growing issue nationwide. Sticking to checkup pays dividends, too, and so do follow-up checkups. They made her more aware of her body, even after she retired from a career in banking. 

“I was raising three teenage daughters, working full-time and keeping a house going,” Anne said. “No wonder I was so exhausted. You’ve got to listen to your body. For women, it’s harder. Men get chest pains. It hurts. With us, it’s exhaustion, shortness of breath. It could be subtle. We’ve got to be vigilant. Better be a fool than dead.”

Anne grew up in the countryside, riding horses and enjoying the outdoors. She met a man in Fulton whom she later married. She was always healthy, she said, but that doesn’t mean you’re immune to setback. 

The benefits of regular checkups are numerous, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health care providers let you know which screenings and exams you need to be aware of. Early exams can help find problems before they grow bigger. Among the most recommended exams, screenings and vaccinations are high blood pressure, prostate cancer screening, oral health, and breast and cervical cancer early detection. 

Exercise, particularly walking or running, also provides a boost to one’s mental and physical health. The act improves joints, burns calories and improves the heart while reducing stress. 

And Anne stays busy with others. She enjoys spending time with neighbors, friends, her grandchildren and husband. A running companion also helps her avoid loneliness, which researchers have found is as closely linked to early mortality as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day or consuming more than six alcoholic drinks a day. It’s even worse for longevity than obesity or physical inactivity. 

With health at the forefront, Anne turned 68 in November. She still runs three to five miles per day, with her dog being her biggest motivator on days she doesn’t feel like going outside or going for a run. In November, she completed the Las Vegas Half Marathon through the Strip. She’s now completed seven marathons, including New York City, Walt Disney World and San Diego. She says she won’t let up. 

“We’ve had two friends die at Christmas,” said Anne’s husband, Joseph. “It’s a reminder that life is short and we need to support one another, including ourselves. Anne just keeps going.”

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