Each year, Elizabeth James kicks up her heels at Dance Your Heart Out, an event sponsored by Christiana Care Health System to promote women’s health.
But her aerobic workout doesn’t stop there. James, 73, maintains an active lifestyle all year ‘round, inspired by the results she received from health screenings at the event.
“Last year, I learned that I need to lose weight,” she said.
The Wilmington woman took that advice to heart. In early March, she participated in her first 5K race “and I am determined to do it again,” she said.
More than 500 guests, volunteers and vendors, most of them women, attended the March 16 Dance Your Heart Out event at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington. The event combined high-energy dancing with health screenings and education on topics ranging from nutrition to deep-vein thrombosis, a potentially deadly condition in which blood clots form in the leg.
Dancing Through the Decades was the theme for this 7th annual event, which stresses dance as a fun form of cardiovascular exercise. Volunteers and participants were encouraged to dress in an outfit from their favorite era, from the tie-dyed T-shirts of the 1960s to the big hair and “Flashdance” style sweats of the 1980s.
Participants received 513 free screenings in all, including 154 for blood pressure, 107 for stroke risk, 109 for diabetes risk and 143 for body-fat analysis.
Of the participants screened for blood pressure, nearly two in three were found to have hypertension. Thirty-eight percent of those screened for diabetes were considered high-risk, and over 70 percent of those screened for body-fat analysis were overweight or obese. The stroke screenings increased awareness of less commonly known risk factors for stroke such as diabetes, atrial fibrillation and a history of stroke in the family. All community members who did not have a primary care provider were connected with care.
“Screenings can save lives,” said Karen Anthony, MS, senior program manager, Community Health and Preventive Medicine. “When individuals are aware of their risk factors, they can partner with their primary care physicians to create a plan to keep them as healthy as possible.”
Christiana Care provides high-quality care for women at every age and stage of life and is the only National Community Center of Excellence for Women’s Health in the region.
Dance Your Heart Out and other events sponsored by Christiana Care break down barriers to care by taking screenings and education directly to the people. That impressed Rosie Staten, 27, who recently relocated to New Castle.
“I just recently moved to Delaware and want to know what the community has to offer,” Staten said. “There are a lot of people who don’t know what their blood pressure is, and this event is an opportunity for them to get that important information.”
Alyssa Atanacio, a registered dietitian, educated participants about healthy choices in diet by comparing the amounts of food that contain 100 calories.
“You get three cups of vegetables versus 11 potato chips,” Atanacio said. “It’s a real eye opener.”
Margaret Purnell, 53, of Wilmington, has become a partner in her own health. She keeps her hypertension under control with medication, a low-fat, low-salt diet and exercise to reduce her risk of stroke and heart attack.
“I have learned to maintain my blood pressure, and exercising makes me feel great,” Purnell said.
Himani Divatia, D.O., Christiana Care Internal Medicine-Pediatrics co-chief resident, said screenings and education help people to discover health problems when they are in their earliest, most treatable stages.
“These types of events help people to feel motivated and engaged to be partners in their health and know that their providers are on this journey with them,” Divatia said.
Michael Waite, guest emcee, kept the vibe upbeat and moving for hundreds of enthusiastic dancers.
Dance Your Heart Out is made possible in part through the commitment and dedication of the planning committee and more than 150 volunteers. Participating Christiana Care programs and service lines included The Center for Heart & Vascular Health, Women & Children’s Health Services, Primary Care & Community Medicine, Cardiac Rehabilitation/Secondary Prevention, the Blood Pressure Ambassador Program, Cancer Health Outreach and Education Program, Nutrition Services, Exercise Services, Christiana Care Cardiology Consultants, Camp FRESH, Health Ambassadors, The Swank Memory Care Center, Pulmonary Hypertension, Non-invasive Lab, Imaging Services, Breast Center, Metabolic Health Services, Weight Management Center, Stroke Program, Language Services, Christiana Care Health Guides, External Affairs.
Dance instruction and performances were presented by Dance Delaware, Anytime Fitness and the YMCA of Delaware.