Jack Toothman will be the first to admit that he didn’t pay much attention to his own health for a long time, but a tragic moment changed that.

He and a friend took the “you only live until you die” approach for many years, which he thought was fine until the friend died at age 56.

Cambridge Mayor Jack Toothman.

“That was an eye opener for me,” says Jack, who is in his second year as the mayor of Cambridge.

Jack is participating in the Mayor’s Walking Challenge, a program put on by the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health that promotes physical activity for children. Mayors who complete the challenge by averaging 10,000 steps per day in October earn $1,000 for their community.

“I believe in the program,” Jack says. “I’m all for trying to bring awareness to people. Too many people worry about their health when it’s too late.”

Jack, a Vietnam War veteran, is a diabetic with cardiovascular disease. He said he’s had two forms of cancer and three confirmed aneurysms. You wouldn’t know it by his attitude.

Since his friend’s passing, he’s taken to research and improved his habits to see how he can improve his health. The two areas – diet and exercise – are his focus. He logs all of his food and is cognizant about what foods are good for him. He follow’s Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo’s recommendations in the book “Eat Right 4 Your Type,” that informs readers that blood type determines what foods people should or shouldn’t eat.

Jack also is extremely active. He has the luxury of having the Weiser River Trail practically running through his front yard, which is his walking and bicycle trail when the weather is nice. He has a stationary bike in his living room and a treadmill in his garage for colder days.

“I can walk further and faster, and the bicycle helps,” he says.

Jack is optimistic. He’s a believer that the human body can repair itself if you take steps to allow it to do so.

“I’m not going to go down like a wimp,” he says. “I’ve studied and have been able to help others, including my wife (who lost more than 50 pounds using the same diet guidelines as he does). If you make the extra effort, it goes a long way.”

That effort in the Mayor’s Walking Challenge will result in $1,000 for his local elementary school.

“I feel as mayor that if I can help the school get funds to buy equipment for kids, I should do that,” he says. “I’m a fitness nut and am going to do the workouts anyway.”