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Laurel man loses 170 pounds, is named contestant in 'Mr. Health and Fitness 2022'

Trei Massie said lifestyle changes that can reduce stroke risks are within reach for most people.

LAUREL, Md. — Over the weekend, two political figures suffered strokes, which in turn caused Trei Massie of Laurel, Maryland, to reflect on his journey to fitness.

Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen reported he had a “minor stroke” but is expecting to go back to work this week after treatment at George Washington University Hospital.

In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the leading candidate in that state's Senate Democratic primary race, was hospitalized after suffering a stroke Friday but said he’s “well on his way to a full recovery.”

Massie said it's proof that strokes can happen to anyone at any time.

“I've learned that from personal experience in terms of losing my family members,” Massie said.

Massie said his parents and two brothers all died from strokes or stroke-related effects. He is the only survivor of his nuclear family.

He said it was the "wake-up call" that started him on an unlikely health and fitness journey six years ago.

"I just had a come-to-Jesus moment where l said look, I have three kids (and) I want to be around for them, and I don’t want them to be a caregiver like I was,” Massie said.

At the time he says he weighed 350 pounds. He is now down to 180 pounds and is training as a contestant in hopes of being named "Mr. Health and Fitness 2022" by Muscle and Fitness Magazine.

Credit: WUSA9

Massie's journey started with dieting. He said was inspired by some early modest success.

"What I tell everybody is to start small. Don't think you can change your diet overnight,” Massie said. "And believe me, my exercise didn't start with me spending an hour to two hours in the gym lifting. It started walking half a block. I was lucky I could do 10 minutes on the treadmill."

He also credits emotional health counseling and a supportive community of other fitness-seekers encouraging him along the way.

WHAT IS A STROKE? WHAT ARE THE SIGNS?

According to the American Stroke Association, a stroke is a blood blockage or bleeding that damages the brain. Risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and smoking.

Dr. Mark Baker of The George Washington University Hospital said incidents of stroke are increasing.

“As our population continues to have relatively sedentary, unhealthy lifestyles, --  especially during COVID, as our mental health has changed -- we're not eating as well. We're not exercising as well. I think we're seeing stroke continue to be a problem within our population," Baker explained. "I think it's something that if we're able to take care of these other underlying medical problems, we can hopefully see that number go down.”

Baker emphasized the importance of recognizing symptoms and taking quick action when a stroke is suspected.

"The good treatments for stroke are all time-sensitive," Baker said. "It's not something where you wait around and take a nap and see if it gets better. You have to call 9-1-1. You have to present to your local hospital to be evaluated for stroke."

Back in the gym, Trei Massie said lifestyle changes that can reduce stroke risks are within reach for most people.

"You have to listen listen to your family history," Massie said. "You can't change your genetics but you sure as heck can change your risk factors.”

WATCH NEXT: Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland hospitalized for 'minor stroke'

U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland said in a statement that over the weekend he experienced a "minor stroke." The Democrat was admitted to GW Hospital.

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