Honoring Alaskan women who’ve made heart healthy lifestyle decisions is important to the community and to us.


Judi Hite

Judi Hite Photo (2016 Red Dress Award)What got me started being more healthy was the fact my husband, of 49 years, passed two years ago. We had both gotten a little sedate in our lifestyles due, in part, to illness and being retired. I had gained a lot of weight and it caused me to breathe harder and not have good balance or strength. I knew if I was to take care of myself, I needed to make some changes. I spent about two months with my daughter. While there, I decided to follow my daughter’s way of eating. I ate more protein and cut way down on carbs and sugar. I found that I wasn’t having cravings. I was very content and it was easy to do. I felt excited to be in control of my eating habits, and I was losing weight and feeling better.

When I returned home, I continued eating the same. I decided to start exercising with a group that meets three times a week. We follow along with a video. It’s low impact and everyone works at their comfort level and ability. We’re there to encourage and support each other. Along with the physical benefits, and socializing and laughter is good mental therapy. Several of us meet at the Senior Center, once a week. We play cards, talk, laugh, share about what’s happening in our lives, and plan little outings to do, together. We even meet once a month for breakfast.

My journey to better health has brought me to a much improved, quality-of-life! I have a spring in my step, and a feeling of being in control. I’m hoping that because of this, it takes a little less worry off of my family.

Lorayne Embretson

Lorayne Embretson Photo (2016 Red Dress Award)Growing up on a family farm in Northeast Iowa taught Lorayne the meaning of hard work and the value of family. She cared for an ailing live in grandmother, her father who had cancer, and her mother who
suffered from diabetes. Lorayne received her Associate Degree of Nursing in Iowa then came to Alaska on a whim in 1974. While raising her two daughters with her husband David, working full time in the Emergency Room she received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Lorayne and David raised two daughters in Alaska, which involved enjoying every moment being active in the great outdoors. Lorayne played in volleyball leagues as a young adult, which inspired both her daughters to want to play. After watching her daughters play volleyball she decided she wanted to help other youth learn how to play. She volunteered for ten years at the Boys and Girls club coaching volleyball for 5th and 6th grade girls. As Lorayne and David aged their health decreased and their lifestyle became more sedentary. After 6 years of watching her husband’s health decline significantly from complications of diabetes, he passed away from a heart attack in 2009. Lorayne’s stress, depression, and life-changing loss decreased her health even more. A couple years after losing her husband she had a huge wake-up call. She had become someone she never thought she would be. She was concerned for her health and life. Most importantly she realized she would do anything to be healthy and remain a part of her daughter’s futures as long as she could. Lorayne made a deliberate life style change that included changing her overall diet and starting to exercise. It was a challenge at first but she knew it needed to happen.

She started simple with walking outside and eating healthier. After only one year of walking, hiking, doing Pilates, dancing, backpacking and doing morning vegetable shakes with a gluten and dairy free diet Lorayne lost 60 pounds. Her cholesterol levels and blood pressure returned to normal and she no longer needed medications. Her constant theme has been “I want to be healthy and live life with my loved ones”.

One of her most significant, personal accomplishments was backpacking the Chilkoot Trail at the age
of 63. Her remarkable story was not inspired by the media telling her to be skinny or a new fad diet plan, this success story was inspired by love. Love for her husband, her two daughters, and her family was what kept her determined to become healthy and active again, nothing is more powerful than love. Lorayne hopes to inspire others by her story to become healthy and live life to the fullest.

Michaela Lockes

Michaela Lockes Photo (2016 Red Dress Award)Who grows up thinking they’re going to be heavy? Who grows up thinking they want to be unhealthy? None of us. We don’t go from being an active teenager to weighing 225 pounds at 22 years old overnight. And because the weight gain doesn’t happen overnight, we don’t realize how unhealthy we’ve become. The more weight we pack on, the slower we move, the less we do, the sadder we get. I became that person at 22 years old. When I should have been in the prime of my young adulthood, being active and having fun, I was just slowly moving along in my life. When I went home to visit my family that year, I realized I was the heaviest one in my family. How devastating that was, I hadn’t even realized how much I had gained. Of course, the scale always gives you a number but you don’t truly realize how big you are until one day you see a photo or try on an old pair of jeans or visit people you haven’t seen for a while.

When my sister announced her engagement and asked me to be her bridesmaid, I made a decision to lose the weight and be healthy. I also decided that I didn’t want to take diet pills, have a surgery to reduce my food intake or do a “diet plan” that I knew I would gain the weight back as soon as I stopped. I wanted this to be a forever plan. So I started walking everywhere I went. I walked to work regardless of the distance, the cold weather, the rain or the bad excuses that I wanted to use some days. I went to the gym and worked out for a couple of hours each day, and while I might feel like Jell-O at the end of that two hours, I knew that my rewards were going to be amazing so I kept going. I knew I had an addiction to sweets and junk food, so I simply cut them out. I say simply when it wasn’t simple at all. Everywhere you go, everywhere you eat, there’s sweets and junk food. It’s so much easier to grab a burger or a candy bar instead of taking the time to make something healthy. But I made a commitment to myself that I was going to not only lose the weight, but make my mind and body healthy, and that’s what I’ve done. In 18 months I managed to lose 55 pounds, talk about proud of myself! Five months ago I added swimming to my routine and I’ve lost a total of 88 pounds.

Evie Dixon

Evie Dixon PhotoToday I am a 29 year old woman and a heart disease survivor. My story starts at age 2 when I fainted for the first time. I fainted a few times every year and figured it was normal. I also experienced chest pains and palpitations from a young age. I went through cardiac testing when I was in 5th grade. My results were inconclusive and no one ever followed up. When I was 25 I took things into my own hands. I had a new primary care physician he ordered a tilt table test. I flat lined (heart stopped beating) during the test. I was sent for further testing. I have had multiple heart procedures including an ablation and EP studies. During one of my EP studies my heart rate dipped to low instead of racing. I was told I needed a pacemaker. I have had my pacemaker for 2 years now and could not feel better. My final diagnosis is superventricular tachycardia with vasovagal synchope. I now do public speaking and PSA announcements in support of the American Heart association by sharing what I went through. I also talk with people who are going through similar situations to help them through the process. It can be scary for anyone at any age to find out their heart does not work properly.