How Voddie Baucham fought for years to protect his heart, health

Voddie Baucham Jr., is currently getting treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Florida for his recently diagnosed heart failure .
Voddie Baucham Jr., is currently getting treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Florida for his recently diagnosed heart failure . | Instagram/Voddie Baucham

Prominent Southern Baptist author and preacher Voddie Baucham Jr. is getting treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Florida for his recently diagnosed heart failure, but for at least a decade, the 51-year-old father of nine had been doing everything he could to avoid this health outcome.

For at least a decade, Baucham, a former college football player who serves on the board of Founders Ministries and is a founding faculty member of the Institute of Public Theology, has been working hard to stave off heart trouble.

“I know I’m going to die some day. However, I’d rather get hit by a bus, or martyred preaching the gospel in hostile territory than have a heart attack in my forties because I didn’t eat right and exercise,” Baucham declared in 2011 when he decided to lose weight and improve his fitness at around age 42.

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It was unclear if Baucham’s commitment to his health and fitness at that time was in any way connected to a previous chronic kidney disease diagnosis which Thomas Ascol, president of Founders Ministries, said Tuesday that the former football player had been battling for “many years.” Baucham has since noted that his current fitness regimen was connected to his kidney disease.

On Oct. 5, 2018, he revealed significant details about his health and fitness regimen after gaining attention online for losing a whopping 60 pounds.

“My weight loss does not mean I am sick ... while my kidney issues are the principal reasons for the changes I’ve made, they are under control. My health is great! BP, body fat, insulin, LDL, and inflammation, etc., are down ... strength (deadlift and squat!), endurance, and energy are up. In other words, my health is good,” he said.

Ascol wasn’t immediately available to provide any further insight into Baucham’s condition when contacted by The Christian Post on Thursday, but heart failure is considered one of the most common complications of heart disease. DaVita Inc., a provider of kidney dialysis services, also noted that cardiovascular disease is common in people with chronic kidney disease regardless of age or stage of kidney disease.

Heart failure, sometimes known as congestive heart failure, according to the Mayo Clinic, occurs when the heart muscles fail to pump blood as well as they should. Certain conditions, such as coronary artery disease or high blood pressure, gradually leave the heart too weak or stiff to fill and pump efficiently.

While not all conditions that lead to heart failure can be reversed, treatments can improve the signs and symptoms of heart failure and help people diagnosed with the illness live longer. The clinic suggests that lifestyle changes — such as exercising, reducing sodium in diet, managing stress and losing weight — can improve the quality of life of people diagnosed with the condition.

After his health commitment noted publicly in 2011, Baucham continued on his healthy lifestyle journey even after moving with his family from Houston, Texas, in 2015 to become dean of the School of Divinity and chairman of the Department of Theology at the African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia.

In his 2018 post, Baucham explained that he even practiced intermittent fasting for 18-20 hours a day as a part of his health regimen.

Two years later, on Oct. 2, 2020, Baucham, who also serves as a lead Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor in Zambia, shared another video of himself on Instagram doing resistance training and explained that he was training five to six days weekly.

“I do weight/resistance training because as a man in my 50s, I am aware that resistance training helps mitigate the inevitable loss of testosterone, HGH, muscle mass, and bone density (among other things),” Baucham said.

“I do functional, athletic training because a) I am an athlete/martial artist, @lusakabjjclub and b) I want to maintain structural integrity, mobility, and functional strength for decades to come. I want to run, play, and wrestle with my great grandchildren!” he added. “I train 5-6 days a week because our bodies were designed to move... push, pull, climb, etc., and our modern lifestyles mitigate against that. We spend far too much time hunched over screens.”

In announcing his illness last Friday, the founder of Voddie Baucham Ministries said he felt unwell at the end of a preaching tour this winter in Zambia before realizing he had heart trouble. 

“I thought I had just worked too hard (17 preaching dates in 18 days, 7 sessions the last 3 days, etc.). However, as it turns out, I was experiencing heart failure!” he shared.

“I had first noticed the symptoms at the end of December when Bridget and I returned to Dallas to bury her mother. I experienced fatigue, and shortness of breath, among other things. However, I chalked it up to traveling with heavy bags and restrictive masks (not the trifecta of a hereditary heart defect, last February’s mysterious ‘pneumonia,’ and untreated sleep apnea).”

Ascol said he noticed Baucham appeared “really tired” during the National Founders Conference held Jan. 21-23 in Fort Myers, Florida. But no one was fully aware of what was happening at the time.

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