KENNESAW, Ga. - As CEO and founder of the physical therapy company PT Solutions, Dale Yake practices the healthy lifestyle he preaches. When he's not working, he's working out.
He played college football and has been an endurance runner since his twenties, starting with triathlons.
"I wasn't the fastest,” Yake says. “I was probably just one of those people out there to complete the race. But, I got this passion and the want-to to move on to the longer distance runs."
By his early 40s, Yake has done 75 to 80 triathlons, and four Ironman endurance competitions. But what he couldn't outrun was a long family history of heart disease.
"My father had heart disease,” Yake says. “My grandparents both have it. My grandparents on my other side had it. My brother has heart disease. So we have a grease fire, if you will, in our family on heart disease."
Yake, a married father of three, says his blood cholesterol was high at times, and so was his blood pressure.
And he'd sometimes have these strange chest pains, especially after eating heavy meals.
But, he was so active, he tried not sweat the numbers.
Then, just after competing in his fourth Ironman, something frightening happened.
"I was out on a bike ride, training for another (competition),” he says. “Started having chest pain. I had trouble turning my head, had pain in my arm, pain in the chest . Pain along my shoulder pain."
Yake had a 99% blockage in the main artery of his heart, the left anterior descending artery, nicknamed "the Widowmaker."
Doctors reopened the artery then placed a stent to hold it open.
Yake recovered, and went back to training. Then, the pain came back, and it was back to the catheterization lab.
In all, Yake has had to have three stents placed in arteries in his heart.
"You do feel helpless,” he says. “You're in your early 40's and you say, I've got heart disease for real now. And the signs and symptoms of severe blockage. What do you do?"
Yake decided the one thing he could do was radically change his eating.
He became a meat-free athlete.
"People always ask me, how do you get your protein,” he says. “There are many different ways, a multitude of ways to get protein in a plant based diet, as opposed to eating animal protein."
Now, he focuses on eating plant-based proteins that you find in beans and other vegetables.
He stays away from meat, soy protein, and foods that are processed or high in salt.
Any Yake says eating better has left him feeling better.
"My blood pressure is excellent, my cholesterol is excellent,” he says. “My weight is down 50 pounds. So, all of that combined, is probably why I feel pretty good."