'You Are the Heart of Your Family -- Take Care of It' provides invaluable information for a healthier lifestyle

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[February 26, 2013]  Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital was the place to be Saturday morning if you care about your health and fitness. A large crowd took part in the "You Are the Heart of Your Family -- Take Care of It" seminar.

The morning was filled with workshops about taking care of your heart.

The day kicked off with a welcome from Angela Stoltzenburg, marketing and community partnership director for ALMH. She had some very unsettling news for those attending.

"The fact is that 66 percent of the residents of Logan County are overweight or obese. In fact, the obesity rate in Logan County is the highest of any county in the state of Illinois," she said. The obesity rate has real-life consequences leading to heart problems, stroke and diabetes.

After Ms. Stoltzenburg's remarks, the attendees headed off to three seminars intended to help reverse these grim statistics.

Kat Tucholke, certified nurse practitioner and diabetes educator, led off the three workshops that were presented Saturday morning with a talk explaining some ideas on weight management. She explained that there are several ways to use calories, a key element to lose weight and maintain an ideal weight. While we use calories in everyday activities, some additional calorie burn may be necessary in the mix of methods to lose weight.

The two ways usually credited with losing excess weight and keeping it off are diet and exercise.

"The one equation to losing weight is simple," she said, "Calories burned have to exceed calories consumed."

While it is easy to talk about daily exercise and eating healthy meals and snacks, the reality is much more difficult.

Tucholke spoke of the psychological challenges to weight loss and outlined strategies that can help, some as simple as reading and understanding food labels and setting realistic goals for weight loss. Taken together, proper diet and exercise can help a person lose weight and keep it off.

Tucholke concluded that "there is no magic pill for weight loss, but knowledge plus hard work equal success."

Just down the hall from Tucholke's presentation, Jennifer DiPasquale was speaking in the Woods Cafe about how to pack a healthy lunch. DiPasquale, a registered dietitian and diabetes educator, stressed that making lunch from scratch does not have to be time-consuming, but it is much cheaper and definitely healthier than hitting a fast-food restaurant.

Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are the way to keep a heart-healthy balance in one's diet. A simple tuna salad made with a mayonnaise and olive oil blend will cut down on the fat of whole mayonnaise. Low refined-sugar consumption and low fat are essential elements of a heart-healthy lunch. Even pre-made salads need to be checked carefully for fat, sugar and salt content.

"Reading labels is a proactive way to know what your food contains," she said.

Less than 2 grams of saturated fat per day and less than 500 milligrams of sodium per meal are excellent ways to eat healthy. Reducing refined sugar and being careful with portion control are further items on the list of creating a heart-healthy lunch.

Walk into the physical therapy department at ALMH, and you might think it is a high-end gym. The numerous items of exercise equipment and the warm exercise pool created the background for physical therapist Todd Mourning to speak on "Creating an Active Family Lifestyle."

"Childhood obesity has tripled in the last 30 years, and one-third of all kids born after 2000 are at risk for diabetes. These grim statistics can be eliminated by diet and exercise," Mourning stressed.

With the decreased emphasis on gym classes and recess in schools, kids are becoming less active. Couple this with an explosion in portion size, and it is no surprise that obesity is on the increase.

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Mourning stressed that a person does not have to join an expensive gym to increase physical activity. Lincoln is blessed with two beautiful parks with long walking trails: Kickapoo Creek and Madigan. The Lincoln Park District facility is a terrific deal with excellent equipment and exercise classes at very reasonable rates. The Lincoln College swimming pool is available for lap swimmers during the school year at a reasonable fee.

Mourning stressed that "it is important to build exercise into a person's life."

He also spoke about the many youth sports and activities available in the area. In addition to the Lincoln Park District and YMCA offering many sports and activities, there is also organized youth soccer and swimming.

In the near future, LDN will provide a list of organizations with exercise-related activities.

The keynote address was given in the lobby of the hospital by Dr. Christopher Rivera, a family practice physician at ALMH. His theme, cardiovascular health, brought together all of the information from the three seminars.

"The heart is a muscle just like any other muscle in your body," he explained, "and it needs good diet and exercise to keep it healthy."

Any increase in bad cholesterol, also called LDL, can block blood flow to the heart, which can lead to damage, a condition where the heart is starved for oxygen.

Dr. Rivera checked off some of the symptoms of a heart attack. Chest discomfort, pain in the arms, cold sweats and vomiting may be symptoms of a heart attack. They should be taken seriously.

He stressed that if a person experiences these symptoms, a call to 911 is essential.

"Do not try to drive yourself to the ER. That is a prescription for disaster," he cautioned. An emergency crew can begin treatment in your home.

Rivera listed the three most important items to keep good heart health. Lifestyle modification with a normal weight, limited alcohol intake and especially cessation of smoking are vital.

Next, blood pressure should be maintained in a safe range, essentially below 140/90. Finally, cholesterol should be checked to ensure that the balance between good cholesterol (HDL) and bad (LDL) is in the proper ratio.

These items and consulting with a trusted doctor go a long way to prevent or delay heart disease.

Angela Stoltzenburg thanked the Mennonite School of Nursing for providing students to perform body fat and blood pressure screenings during the morning.

Eating healthy, exercise and keeping informed about the latest information in heart health care are essential to a healthy lifestyle, one that keeps your heart in top condition, a very good thing for you and the ones who love you.


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