Dance your heart out!

Joan Burke often spends Saturday mornings in a Jazzercise class, but that didn’t stop her from learning African and Dominican dance moves at Christiana Care Health System’s Dance Your Heart Out. Burke was one of the more than 240 guests and volunteers who attended the 8th annual event, themed “Dance Around the World,” on Saturday, March 24, at Christiana Care’s John H. Ammon Medical Education Center.

In addition to dance classes, the event offered free health screenings and information on topics including cardiac rehabilitation, nutrition, diabetes, stroke and mammograms.

“I’m doing everything,” said Burke, 67, when she walked into the event. “I might as well take advantage of it while it’s free and available.”

Carol Massa, who stood waiting next to Burke for a blood pressure screening, agreed. “I’m always looking for new ways to stay healthy,” she said.

Joan Burke holds an analyzer that can determine the user’s percentage of body fat and the body mass index. Burke took advantage of all the free health screenings at the event.

Dancing was the main attraction, but throughout the day, health professionals completed about 200 screenings, including blood pressure, risk assessments for diabetes and stroke, and body fat and body mass index analysis (BMI).

“You need to know all of your risk factors so that you can feel empowered to make the necessary changes,” said Sawdia Letnianczyn, BSN, RN, CHFN, who greeted guests entering the health-screening room.

After seeing about 20 guests, Ciechanowski said that high blood pressure was topping the list.

“It’s the number-one risk factor in Delaware and in the country,” she said. A low risk is 120/80; a high risk is 140/90. “If we could reduce high blood pressure, it would lower the risk strokes and heart attacks.”

Dance Your Heart Out event organizers noticed an increase in younger participants this year.

She also discussed the symptoms of stroke, which occurs when blood flow to an area of the brain is cut off. She said to call 9-1-1 immediately if you or someone you know has slurred or strange speech, drooping on one side of the face, or an arm that drifts downward when both are raised.

At the BMI-assessment table, registered dietitian Julie Onisk, RD, MPH, CDE, used a handheld device to measure the body fat and BMI of Jennifer Fletcher, 34, and her sister Debra Fletcher, 30.

As women age, their percentage of body fat often increases, Onisk said. Being overweight or obese ups the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. Hormones, including insulin, also fluctuate with age, she said.

Prediabetes, which often can be reversed, can lead to heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.


Christopher Moore, BA, LSSGB, manager, Community Health, welcomes the dancers at Christiana Care’s 2018 Dance Your Heart Out.

Dance ‘battle’ gets the hearts pumping

“Clap for the people who put on the event, and clap for yourselves for coming,” said Christopher Moore, BA, LSSGB, manager, Community Health, who co-emceed the event with radio personality Patty Jackson of WDAS-FM. “Are you ready to dance around the world?”

Instructor Nashira Council, who teaches Afro-house dance, divided dancers into two groups. They faced each other, fingers pointing in time to the music, for a high-energy dance “battle.”

Joe Figueroa taught salsa and bachata steps, and instructor Steve Carroll led a country line dance.

Attendees also were treated to a performance by Dance Delaware’s team, led by Valerie Smith Byron.

When Dance Your Heart Out started eight years ago, many attendees were retirees, but as the event has grown, it has attracted men and women of all ages.

“We’re happy to see that people are now bringing their teenagers and little ones,” said committee chair Karen Anthony, MS, senior program manager, Community Health and Preventative Medicine.

Instructor Nashira Council, who teaches Afro-house, divided dancers into two facing groups for a high-energy dance “battle.”


Dance Your Heart Out is made possible in part through the commitment and dedication of the planning committee and more than 40 volunteers. Participating Christiana Care programs and service lines included the Breast Center, Camp FRESH, Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute‘s Community Health Outreach and Education Program, Christiana Care Cardiology Consultants, Cardiac Rehab, Center for Heart & Vascular Health, Exercise Services, Family & Community Medicine, Christiana Care Health Ambassadors and Health Guides, Imaging Services, Non-Invasive Lab, Nutrition Services, Primary Care, Swank Memory Care Center, Women & Children’s Health and External Affairs.

Screenings were conducted by Christiana Care’s Blood Pressure Ambassadors, Christiana Care’s Stroke Program, Metabolic Health Services, and Nutrition Services with assistance from Christiana Care’s Residency Program.