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On the road to wellness

How can you get healthier in less than a day?

Attend the Albuquerque Journal’s Spring Wellness Fair at Coronado Center on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Of course there are no magical elixirs, but plenty of medical experts will be available to answer your questions to help you, the kids and even your family pet back on the road to wellness.

“This will be the Journal’s third health fair. We enjoyed two successful health fairs last year and received a lot of positive feedback,” says Tanya Lenti, marketing director for the Albuquerque Publishing Co. “This is a community event designed to bring people and health professionals together to create a dialogue and increase health awareness.”

Dr. Warren K. Laskey, a University of New Mexico internal medicine professor and chief of cardiology at the UNM Health Sciences Center, will be there with answers to keep your heart healthy.

Good questions to ask are how to minimize the risk of a heart attack or stroke, he says. “People stop by and we personalize it. People want to know what’s good cholesterol and what’s bad cholesterol. We want them to know their numbers to make sure their cholesterol is measured and that they know what the numbers mean and what they need to do about it.”

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the world and the leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 375,000 Americans a year.

Too much bad cholesterol and not enough good cholesterol can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke. It’s important to know the levels of cholesterol in your blood so that you and your doctor can determine the best strategy to lower your risk. A total cholesterol score of less than 180 mg/dL is ideal, according to the American Heart Association.

Risk factors

Laskey says other controllable risk factors like blood pressure and weight should also be measured and addressed.

According to the Heart Association website, normal blood pressure is less than 120 for the top number that measures pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The bottom number should be less than 80, measuring the pressure in the arteries between beats. High blood pressure can damage the arteries over time.

Although Laskey works at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, which is a presenting sponsor for the event, along with UNM Sandoval Regional Medical Center, he will be at the American Heart Association booth. Laskey serves at president of the board for the New Mexico Chapter of the American Heart Association.

Warning signs of a heart attack may be different for men and women. Both can experience an uncomfortable sensation of fullness or pressure in the chest, both can also be lightheaded with nausea and both may experience shortness of breath. Women tend to have more back, neck or jaw pain than men, according to the Heart Association.

But recognizing a heart attack as it occurs, boils down to knowing your body, Laskey says. “If you have new or unusual discomfort for more than 15 minutes, between your chin and belly button or your shoulders and your pelvis, don’t wait, call 911. If something is happening that makes you feel really not well, pay attention, don’t wait. It’s the uniqueness of it. Listen to your body. ‘Something is wrong here’ is the signal that’s clear for both men and women.”

ABQ Health Partners, a physician-led multi-specialty medical group that provides patient-centered care, will provide complimentary blood pressure checks and glucose screenings at the fair.

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but it can cause serious problems such as stroke, heart failure, heart attack and kidney failure, says spokeswoman Carly Newlands. A blood glucose test measures the amount of a sugar, called glucose, in a sample of your blood. Glucose screenings test for diabetes.

“It always important to know your numbers and that is what we tell our patients. Please visit us a the Spring Wellness Health Fair and get checked,” she says.

Sleep problems

More and more research shows sleep disturbances can harm your health. To help people get closer to that good night’s sleep they crave, Dr. Senthil Ramasamy, who is board certified in neurology and sleep medicine, with a practice in Rio Rancho, will be available to answer questions about sleep.

Having a condition called sleep apnea, which may sound like loud snoring, with episodes of breath stopping during the night because of obstructions in the body’s airways, can put people at risk for other diseases including stroke, heart attack and diabetes.

Children may suffer from the condition and parents may not notice that they are sleepy during the day, but rather that they are hyperactive. Ramasamy says children may jump around to compensate for their drowsiness and get mislabeled as having attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, when they are really having trouble breathing at night.

A children’s expert, Dr. Lance Chilton, a pediatrician and Journal columnist, will also be available for questions. He says most parents have questions as their children head into summer vacation, but the basics remain.

“Of course, you want to have a summer that’s fun, productive and safe. You don’t want to forget the sunscreen, the helmet and the seatbelt, but don’t forget about continuing your child’s education. Make a plan to include reading in your child’s summer. Go out and use those libraries. Don’t let your child spend all his time in front of the television or on a Game Boy.”

Another Journal columnist, veterinarian Jeff Nichol, loves to talk about your pets, those family members with four legs. He will be available for 5- to 10-minute consultations for animal medical and behavioral concerns.

Insurance advice

Health insurance has changed for many people and providers like Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, a sponsor of the Spring Wellness Fair, will be available to answer questions and help people understand what options are available to them.

“Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico understands that life is full of important choices,” says Janice Torrez, vice president of External Affairs and Chief of Staff. “We want to help New Mexico families understand the health insurance options that will work best for their needs and the needs of their families. We can answer your questions at the Spring Wellness Fair.”

Lisa Krutz, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Health Connections, says the organization will have information on health-care coverage, including information on how to sign up during the special enrollment period that opened March 15 and will go until April 30, for people who didn’t get insurance during the open enrollment period.

They will also have a Wheel of Health game for children of all ages to test their health knowledge and information.

Molina Healthcare will be on hand to help members understand all the benefits available through their insurance plan, says Cindy Howell, vice president of health-care services for New Mexico.

For example, a client could request to see an alternative healer, like a curandera or a medicine man, if that’s part of their culture, she says. “We do assessments on all of our members. We want to make sure they have access to their benefits.”

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