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Following heart surgery, Horsford hits the road

WASHINGTON — Five months after major heart surgery, Rep. Steven Horsford has found religion in a pair of old Nikes, size 11.

The Southern Nevada congressman has taken up running again after surviving a health scare this summer. The 40-year-old with a family history of heart troubles had six-way bypass surgery in July after doctors discovered severe blockages in his arteries.

Following surgery, Horsford underwent three months of monitored exercise on the treadmill, stationary bike and elliptical exercise machine. Freed to his own devices in late October, he vowed to keep up a regimen along with adopting a healthier diet.

“My goal is to get 45 minutes of cardiac exercise a day,” Horsford said. That usually means running 2 or 3 miles, or putting in the time on a treadmill or elliptical if his schedule can’t permit.

On one of his early forays, Horsford, a freshman House member, got lost along the roadways crossing the Potomac River into Virginia, and eventually found himself at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, several miles farther than he budgeted. He took the Metro train back into the city.

It’s been easier back in Las Vegas navigating around his neighborhood and at Aliante Nature Park in North Las Vegas. An app on his smartphone tracks his distances, which he has broadcast to his followers on Twitter.

Horsford talked about his renewed life in his Capitol Hill office. During an interview, he pulls out a jumbo jar of nuts from his desk, pours some into a coffee cup and munches one or two at a time. He said that also is part of a new lifestyle.

“My doctors advised it’s about everything in moderation,” he said. He no longer eats beef or pork, setting them aside for fish, fruit and vegetables, and limiting his sodium intake. At rubber chicken events, Horsford is the guy who gets the vegetarian plate.

Horsford said he’s lost about 20 pounds since surgery, and he wants to keep them off.

Back in the day, Horsford was an athlete, running cross country and the 400-meter event on the track team at Clark High School. But as time went on, exercise became intermittent and more low impact.

When he would feel tired during and after a workout, he just figured he was out of shape and getting old, until he was informed of his heart defect.

Now, he said, “before, during and after the exercise I feel good.”

Horsford is planning a “Running with Your Rep” opportunity for constituents, modeled after the “Walking With Weekly” events Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly holds.

Weekly “has a great turnout so we are looking to do something like that in the near future — now that I know I can do it,” Horsford said. “I didn’t want to put myself out there and not be able to finish the race myself.”

Horsford said he is trying to put his health scare in a bigger picture. Leading a 5K heart walk and run sponsored by the American Health Association on Fremont Street on Nov. 2, he took notice of other heart patients, including a 5-year-old girl who had gone through surgery in the past year.

“Like everything in life, God puts us through things for a reason,” he said. “At the time you think why is this happening to me, and that is what I felt when the doctor told me I had this blockage and needed to have open heart bypass surgery.

“But out of it I have realized that I went through this so I could be a stronger advocate and a voice to help others,” he said. “It is an opportunity to bring awareness of the need for education and health and wellness events where people can go get checked and screened and to know if they are predisposed or at risk of heart disease or stroke.”

As Horsford professes to a fresh start, there is one thing he has not changed. He still wears the running shoes he was given by his in-laws some time ago.

“They are starting to smell a little bit,” he said, “so maybe I’d better start looking for some new ones, otherwise my wife is going to make me leave them in the garage.”

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.

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