What prompted you to start Heart Health Academy?

Heart Health Academy was born after I was in the grind of outpatient medicine for almost 20 years. I was seeing about 24 patients a day in various cardiology offices and only having 15 minutes for each visit. I was getting burned out. I realized that I was getting really good at pushing pills onto my patient — a new pill to treat a new condition, or increasing or decreasing their medication doses. I was essentially treating numbers and symptoms only, not addressing their underlying problems. I wanted a way to spend more time with a person and really delve into what they need to do to improve their cardiac health or help them stave away future repeat cardiac issues that they already may have.

What’s your background? What qualifies you to help people with health issues?

I went to the University of Rochester for my undergraduate degree (bachelor’s in psychology; minor in health and society). I then got my second bachelor’s degree, graduating with a certification as a physician assistant from RIT in 1999. I have 20 years of medical experience, mainly cardiac experience. I have worked in several cardiology offices in San Diego and here in Syracuse, where I’m originally from. I’ve treated a multitude of cardiac disease states such as coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, and more. I currently work at the VA Hospital treating veterans who require blood thinners for certain heart conditions and/or if they have suffered a blood clot in their body. I feel that not only do I have the medical knowledge, I also have compassion for my clients/patients, as trying to change unhealthy habits is not an easy task.

What kind of services do you offer?

I currently offer three wellness coaching packages. They build on each other depending on a client’s price point and how long they prefer to work with me. I offer one, four, or eight sessions. These sessions are an hour long and can be tailored to a person’s needs, depending on what issues they need to work on. For example, once we identify the issues (let’s say, to get them off some of their medication and lower their blood pressure and cholesterol), we then identify how we are going to do this — for example, eating healthier and starting an exercise plan. We delve into how to do this successfully step-by-step.

I also do speaking engagements in the community and love to educate people about heart disease.

How does what you do help your clients?

Not only does our working together help a client improve their health and lessen their risk of cardiovascular disease, they often feel better emotionally. I help clients as a whole. I believe it is so important to treat the whole person, not just the medical side. Maybe they need stress reduction techniques, help with their sleep (as bad sleeping habits has been linked to cardiovascular disease), or relationship guidance. While I am not a trained therapist, just letting people vent and understand that their sometimes challenging relationships with other people can cause stress, which can increase cardiac disease. One thing leads to another.

How do people find their way to you?

The best way to find me/reach me is through my website, thehearthealthacademy.com. Send me an email through my contact form and I’ll be sure to get in touch with you. You can also find me on Facebook at Facebook.com/pg/andreaatchesonPA or on Instagram.

How is this different from other weight loss or health plans?

My philosophy is knowledge is power. Because I have the medical background, I am a strong proponent of knowing your detailed medical history first before we start into your wellness journey. I organize you in a medical sense right up front so you know exactly what you need to work on. There may be many different areas, but we can then chip away at them one by one.

How have the philosophies behind the Heart Health Academy helped you to improve your own health?

The more I work in this business, the more I learn and become aware of the issues I need to improve. I am no different than my clients and I need to practice what I preach. I am delving into areas for myself that I haven’t done before such as hot yoga, meditation, and more holistic exercise programs. I want people to know that there are so many alternative health approaches besides traditional techniques. Last night I happened to catch a TV program that was talking about the world’s fishing industry and how we may run out of seafood by 2050. Things like this make me stop and perhaps re-think my dietary choices and what and how I choose to eat. I am always looking to improve my health and welcome any learning opportunities.

What’s the first step to better heart health?

The first step is to know what I call “Your Medical Blueprint.” This is your personalized medical history (with all of your medical diagnosis), your family history, understanding the medications you take and who is in charge of them, your surgical history, and to know all of your medical providers. If you don’t know the starting point for your health and wellness, you can’t outline where you want to be in the future. I help you define your medical blueprint.

Is there anything else people should know?

Along with working full-time and owning and operating Heart Health Academy, I am a wife and mother of two amazing boys, 5 and 6 years old. I also went to culinary school in San Diego and married a chef (lucky me)! I had a company out west where I catered events and did group and private cooking lessons. I was lucky to be chosen to appear on the Food Network with Bobby Flay in 2009. If anyone wants help cooking heathy recipes, I would love to educate and show you. As much as I love me a burger, just don’t expect me to show up with 80 percent ground chuck meat! You will have to accept that we will make it just as tasty with healthier ingredients. Are you ready to get stated into your heart wellness journey with me?

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