Joe Moreno has been running all of his life and assumed his lifestyle was keeping him healthy. But the former East Moline mayor and race director for the Quad-Cities Marathon has discovered there is more to being healthy than staying on the move.

The 56-year-old father of six suffered what he described as "a mild stroke" on Sunday and was released Tuesday from the hospital.

"I'm not as healthy as I thought I was," he said from his home Tuesday. "They're going to do heart surgery. I've always been a runner, my whole life. There's more to being healthy than being active, though. It's all in the pipes and the organs."

Moreno said doctors discovered a hole in his heart about two years ago, and he has since been taking medication to heal it.

"I have an appointment with a cardiologist, and I'll be having the hole in the heart closed," he said. "Everything's going to be fine. I just have to have the surgery taken care of."

In addition to the Quad-Cities Marathon, Moreno has served as race director of the Genesis Firecracker Run in East Moline, works a full-time job and is launching another area race, Freedom Run, which is scheduled for Aug. 8. Despite being constantly on the run, Moreno said he has fallen down in another important area: diet.

"I've had a pretty poor diet for years," he said. "My running has really gone downhill in recent months. I added the Freedom Run to my plate, because I think it's really important. It's for our military. So, I've been working on four races in four months and working full time. I'm extremely active, and I think that's a good thing.

"But I haven't had the healthiest diet, for sure, and it's caught up with me."

Dr. Cornelius Davis, a cardiac surgeon from Houston who this week joined the staff at Genesis Health System, said people often are surprised when athletes have serious health problems.

"It's rare," he said. "That's why we talk about them."

In particular, he pointed to the 1984 sudden death of Jim Fixx, an author who helped launch the fitness revolution and popularize running. In addition to having a family history of heart disease, Fixx had been a heavy smoker, Davis said.

Even the most athletic people can have uncontrolled diabetes and/or high blood pressure or, as in Fixx's case, an unhealthy history.

In the case of a hole in the heart, Davis said, the condition is usually congenital, meaning a person is born with it. One risk associated with the condition is what happened to Moreno: Something, probably a small blood clot, works its way to the brain through the hole in the heart.

Stress also is a factor in many strokes, but doctors do not know exactly why. Studies show that people with high levels of stress have more strokes, but the reason is not completely understood.

"We know that recognizing the presence of a stroke is extremely important," said Davis, who is not one of Moreno's doctors. "If therapy is started in a short period of time, outcomes are much better."

Outcomes are better, too, when a healthy lifestyle includes both exercise and a healthy diet.

"They (athletes) figure, with all the exercise they're doing, they'll be free from cardiovascular disease," Davis said. "We do know that nutritionally sound individuals heal faster, no doubt about it."

Moreno said he would prefer to begin the healing process, meaning putting off surgery, until after the Sept. 22 Quad-Cities Marathon.

"I had all my paperwork in my hospital bed," he said. "I've got all these things to do."

But Davis issued another warning: "Once you've had an event where something's crossed through the hole ... waiting is only exposing your brain to more insult."

Moreno said he will follow his doctor's advice, which he expects his wife, Lorna, to insist on.

"It's not just about me," he said. "I look at myself in the mirror, and I feel OK. But it doesn't matter if you only think you're healthy."

(3) comments

Commit to change

Good luck Joe. Being in good physical shape will help your healing process. Changing to healthier eating will be an easy change when you put your mind to it. Here's to an even healthier lifestyle.


Sad to see you go through this Joe. I pray you have a speedy recovery. One thing that was on my mind when I read this article is, people always assume that since you are not a perfect size 10 that you are not healthy. No, I am not an avid runner, not even a fast walker. But, I do get my exercise in daily. Yes, I am overweight, per societies standards. But, my doctor has given me a clean bill of health. My heart is that of a young woman and I feel great, for a woman over 45. I am active and very outgoing. I wish people would stop assuming that you are unhealthy if you aren't running your life away. Genetics and eating habits has a lot to do with your overall health. Everyone's body is different. I wish that people would stop lumping us together, trying to get us all to look like a super model. Because a man or woman has a little meat on their bones, doesn't make them a health risk or a bad person.
There is no such thing as a perfect body! You can look great on the outside, but your insides can have a lot of other issues going on. You can be a size 10 and be crazy as a Bessie bug. I see people with "exceptionally great figures and body mass", yet they suffer from Lupus, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and other diseases.
Well, I just pray that people will spend more time with loving one another and their families and less time on trivial things. Time goes by too fast and we can't get it back.
Get well Joe!

always an Iowan

Get well, Joe!!! We are pulling for you!

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