Heart health isn't something Panagiotis "Pete" Chafos takes for granted.

Chafos, co-owner of Boston Shoe & Boot Repair in the Apache Mall, has, for the past 70 years, been an example of what it means to live a healthy lifestyle, making him an ideal candidate for mitral valve repair surgery.

Chafos has always been a picture of health. In fact, when he was called to be interviewed for this story, Chafos was in the middle of his daily workout. He runs, lifts weights, watches what he eats and avoids a sedentary life.

Chafos is well-known in his neighborhood for walking the blocks as he reads the newspaper when the weather is nice. During the colder months, he reads the paper while walking the halls of the Apache Mall.

"I walk and read the newspaper," Chafos said. "I'm a slow reader, so I get a lot of walking done."

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In addition to living a healthy lifestyle, Chafos also has been getting annual checkups and has been involved in various testing programs over the last 20 years. While Chafos went into the testing programs as a way to get a low-cost physical, the checkups ended up saving his life.

"They discovered that I had a valve problem in the early '90s but didn't think it was serious," he said. "I got into another testing program last January to test my hormones, and they found a murmur."

Robotic procedure

It was discovered that Chafos had a potentially fatal heart condition that had remained undetected by him. In order to fix it, Chafos would have to undergo mitral valve repair surgery. Because of his healthy lifestyle, Chafos was an ideal candidate for a robotic procedure performed by Dr. Rakesh Suri.

Mayo Clinic has recently surpassed its 500th robotic mitral valve repair surgery, and people travel from all over the world to have Dr. Suri perform the procedure.

Chafos knew Dr. Suri before the operation from visits to his shoe repair store.

"I tried to make him a deal," Chafos joked. "I told him that I would fix up his shoes for free if he did my operation for free. He didn't go for it."

Chafos underwent the surgery, and the minimally invasive procedure had him on his feet almost immediately after surgery and out of the hospital in just a few days. His lifestyle, he said, hasn't changed since having mitral valve repair surgery.

"I didn't feel any better after it than I had before," he said. "I didn't notice any improvement because I was good and healthy before the surgery."

Before the operation, Chafos was not on any medication and had not taken a pill since he was 25 years old. While he needed to be on medication following surgery, he was completely off of it in just two weeks and now only takes a baby aspirin daily.

Healthy habits

Chafos underwent a miraculous recovery and attributes it to the heart-healthy habits that he has kept up for most of his life. For him, the new studies coming out of Mayo Clinic stating that sitting is as bad as smoking are old philosophies.

"I've been doing that all my life, and I think that had a lot to do with my upkeep," Chafos said. "Three or four years ago, I heard that sitting was as bad as smoking. I'm always standing up, sometimes for 10 or 12 hours a day, and that doesn't count the exercise I do."

To this day, Chafos still runs three times a week and lifts weights daily. And while he has always maintained this lifestyle, he advises others to keep their muscles and lungs in good shape by living an active life and eating healthy.

"Eat well, stand up and keep moving," Chafos said.

A lifelong resident of Rochester, Chafos is proud of the care Mayo Clinic provided for him and believes in the healthy impact it can have on others who come from around the world to receive treatment.

"I'm a very big (proponent) of this town," Chafos said. "I've met many, many patients who come from the clinic and come into my store. I always try to tell them that this is the best place to be in; you won't get checked over anywhere better than here in Rochester."