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Families take getting healthy to heart

Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe Participants in the Sweet Heart walk begin to make their way down Collegeway Saturday morning in Worthington. The event was part of the Healthy Heart Family Celebration, which took place at the Worthington Area YMCA/DeGroot Family Center and City of Worthington Aquatics Center.

WORTHINGTON -- Considering the theme of Saturday morning's Healthy Heart Family Celebration was "Birds of a Feather Getting Healthy Together," it was only fitting that one area at the event was devoted to better eating habits.

Lynn Dierks, a registered nurse at Sanford Regional Hospital Worthington (SRHW), and Michelle Poppen, a registered dietician with the facility, were handing out information on personal diets at the celebration, which took place for the second time and was hosted at the Worthington Area YMCA/DeGroot Family Center and City of Worthington Aquatics Center.

"We've got information on flavonoids and cardiovascular disease," Dierks explained, retrieving a handout. "There are studies being done on these (flavonoids) and how they can be healthy for you."

"Flavonoids are what give the color. ... I've actually done a talk called "Making Your Plate a Rainbow,'" Poppen added. "But I wasn't talking about M&Ms and Jell-O and that kind of stuff."

Flavonoids, specifically, are antioxidant compounds found in leafy green vegetables, red onions, berries, dark chocolate, tea and red wine. When food and drink are processed, a significant portion of their flavonoids are removed.

Studies indicate that flavonoids are good for the heart because they inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, stimulate the release of nitric oxide, lower blood pressure and decrease inflammation, among other benefits.

There's plenty more to learn about the benefits of flavonoids, Poppen readily admitted.

"Nutritional research is going slow," she said. "You think, 'Why can't they find out if tea is good for you?' but there's not a lot of money to made there. ... Drug companies, on the other hand, can make a lot of money if they find something that can help you or cure you."

One thing that is well-acknowledged, Dierks said, is that people are generally eating and drinking more than in years past. That's led to an increase in obesity.

"We have samples of what actual serving sizes are now and comparisons of what they were 20 years ago versus what they are today," Dierks stated. "It shows they have grown, as well as how people have grown."

There were plenty of opportunities to burn off an extra pound or two Saturday. In addition to activities inside the YMCA, a two-mile Sweet Heart Walk brought in people of all ages for a stroll on a crisp morning.

"We're also doing the cholesterol screenings, checking blood pressure and oxygen saturation levels, and testing for glucose and BMIs (body mass indexes)," said Holly Sieve, marketing coordinator at SRHW. "One of the most valuable is cholesterol ... but I think people are excited to do all the different testing."

SRHW and Sanford Clinic staff were on hand to assist at the event, and nursing students from the Worthington campus of Minnesota West Community and Technical College were also helping with screenings.

"Last year, this was a bit more smaller scale," Sieve said. "This year, we added lots of kids' activities and just expanded what we did last year a little bit. For instance, kids this year could take part in making a healthy snack and shooting hoops."

The Community Blood Bank Mobile was also on site during the event, and Worthington fire trucks and ambulances were available to tour.

"With February being Heart Month, we just want to promote the importance of being healthy," Sieve said. "That's the main reason we do this Valentine's weekend -- to promote your heart and getting it checked."

Organizers of the celebration are considering incorporating the event into Worthington's Winter Festival, which took place for the first time last month and featured the Deep Freeze Dip as well as the crowning of a festival queen.

This year's Healthy Heart Family Celebration was co-sponsored by SRHW, Worthington Area YMCA, Minnesota West, Community Blood Bank, U.S. 104 and the Daily Globe.

Ryan McGaughey

I first joined the Daily Globe in April 2001 as sports editor. I later became the news editor in November 2002, and the managing editor in August 2006. I'm originally from New York State, and am married with two children.

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