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Challenging themselves to make change

Last Modified: April 30, 2024

Heart Health


The Her Heart Challenge, facilitated by experts from the Parkview Heart Institute and —Cardiology and made possible by donations to the Parkview Health Foundation, is designed to provide participants with resources to make healthy shifts to promote heart health. Jill Zahm, MSN, RN, AHN-BC, program coordinator at Parkview Heart Institute, and two group members from the 2023 challenge reflect on the program's benefits.

Nicole Hill was experiencing low energy and, when she went to the doctor, learned that her cholesterol and other health metrics were high. “I learned about the Her Heart Challenge at the Love Your Heart Expo the year before,” she said. Motivated by the new health intel and a desire to get back to the activities she liked to do, she decided to apply.

“This program is so very important because as women, we often take care of everyone else before we take care of ourselves,” Jill said. “A lot of women come to this point in life, they’re empty nesters, curbing down their career a bit, and suddenly they have time to look at themselves in the mirror or on paper, and realize, oh my, I haven’t taken care of myself for a long time and the numbers show it. This program helps them right the ship in a gentle way.”

For Laurie Loy, her decision to apply stemmed from a family history of health issues. “My parents both had high blood pressure and my mom had a stroke, so I thought I should do something so I don’t end up like them, to improve on myself.” A friend who participated in the Her Heart Challenge in 2017 told Laurie to keep an open mind and enjoy the journey. 

The Challenge journey

“This isn’t just a weight loss program or a cholesterol reduction program,” Jill said. “It’s a self-care program.”

Goal setting is key to making any change, and the challenge curriculum focuses on sleep, movement, emotion and eating. “It’s just your roadmap to get from point A to point B,” Jill said. “l want them to figure out their point B–it’s different for everyone. I want them to find their why.”

Nicole shared that she really wanted to learn how to eat healthier and move more, and tapping into her inner thoughts uncovered some areas of potential. “I realized when I was journaling, I could see my patterns of things I needed to change,” she said.


Once she picked up on certain cycles, the education piece changed the game for Nicole. “I really enjoyed the classes because I felt I learned a lot,” she said. “Dr. [Mark] O’Shaughnessy came in and talked about our hearts, we had dietitians come and talk to us about different choices and portion control.” She also enjoyed the membership to Turnstone, which supported smart exercise for the participants.

Read more about one participant’s experience at Turnstone.

Bringing the group together

“I always want to find a way to bring the women together to form a tribe so they will have an accountability partner forever,” Jill said. “Beyond the 12 weeks, I want them to have a little group of people they know will support them throughout their journey.”

Laurie shared that she felt a strong camaraderie from the challenge. “You don’t feel like anyone is judging you. We’re all in there trying to feel better, to improve ourselves.”

The open rapport is encouraging, even to the coordinators. “I learn something different from every class,” Jill said. This year’s class left a permanent imprint on the Parkview Heart Institute as well–a beautiful painting representing their experience.


Both Nicole and Laurie have seen health improvements from the program. Nicole has even been able to stop taking some of her medications.

“I’m grateful to Parkview for the Her Heart Challenge,” Nicole said. “And for Jill and her team and my tribe. It was such a great experience.”

Laurie agrees, and says, if you’re thinking about applying, you should. “Go for it. Keep an open mind. The challenge is what you make it.”


The Her Heart Challenge coordinators are always looking for women who are ready for change. If you’re ready to take the challenge, learn more about how to apply here.



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