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NASCAR Star Jeff Gordon’s Healthy Life on and off the Track

What drives this champion to win on the racetrack, as a husband and a dad, and in his quest to help kids with life-threatening conditions?

The Rising Need for Children’s Medical Care

This is a crucial time to address children’s health. The number of U.S. children with chronic health conditions has risen dramatically in the past four decades, according to a study published in June 2007 in The Journal of the American Medical Association. “We have 80 million children in America today, and about 8%, or 6.5 million children and adolescents, have chronic conditions that interfere with regular daily activities,” says James M. Perrin, MD, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the lead author of the study. The top three problems are obesity, asthma, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In addition, the June 2008 edition of Pediatrics reports on the results of a new study that tracked childhood cancer cases in the United States from 2001 to 2003. Leukemia is the most common. Although childhood cancer is rare, it’s the leading cause of disease-related death for U.S. children. “It’s a scary thing,” Gordon says of childhood illness, “but it’s great to see success stories.”

Jeff Gordon on Sports Nutrition

Over the past few years, Gordon has also learned to take better care of himself.

“I’m getting older,” he says. “I have to stretch just to get out of bed these days.”

Though he loves to ride a bicycle, his schedule doesn’t allow him to do it on a regular basis. And he’s never been much for going to the gym. But he has been working at improving his diet. “I used to eat terrible stuff all the time, like hamburgers and hot dogs. And I wondered why I got sick!”

In his early 30s, Gordon reports he went through a long period during which he constantly felt run down. Colds would grip him and refuse to let go. Then, shortly before she became pregnant, his wife encouraged him to see a nutritionist. It was an eye-opening experience.

“I realized I had to start treating my body with the same care that I treat my car if I wanted it to perform,” he says.

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