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Practicing what she preaches: Stewart makes annual physicals a must

Kris Stewart is shown with her husband, John, and children (from left) Paige, Tad and Ian. (Special to The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Scheduling an annual doctor’s appointment isn’t a big deal for the Rev. Kris Stewart — because maintaining her overall good health is.

“I don’t have a remarkable health story to tell,” said Stewart, co-pastor of Worthington’s First Covenant Church with John, her husband of 27 years.

That’s exactly why Stewart unfailingly sets a date each year for an annual exam with her primary care provider, Michelle Kutzke, a certified nurse practitioner and women’s health nurse practitioner at Sanford Worthington Clinic.

“As I age, I want to stay healthy for as long as possible so I can enjoy life, including traveling and keeping up with my kids as they enter young adulthood,” said Stewart, who passed the milestone age of 50 not long ago.

The blessing of primarily excellent health has not been lost on Stewart, whose only need for medication stems from a mild case of hypothyroidism that is monitored yearly.

“Historically, my cholesterol levels have been good — and my blood pressure is phenomenal,” joked Stewart.

Other than being diagnosed with congenital hip dysplasia as an infant — a condition that was corrected with a saddle brace long before Stewart was old enough to remember it — and suffering through a slightly “awkward age” during her adolescence, Stewart’s medical complaints have been few and far between.

“When I was in sixth and seventh grade, I wore a back brace for scoliosis, started wearing glasses and had braces on my teeth,” listed Stewart.

“I had a lot going on, and I was the epitome of middle school awkwardness.

“My dad has quite a sense of humor and he teased me, ‘If you were a fish, we’d have thrown you back into the pond,” Stewart recalled.

Since weathering those not uncommon youthful trials, Stewart had three successful, uneventful pregnancies in her late 20s and early 30s (her children are Ian, 23; Paige, 20; and Tad, 17) and has avoided major health crises to date.

“An annual doctor’s exam sets a good example for your children, too,” she said. “And it’s reassuring to know that most things are on track.

“As a person’s body changes throughout life, it’s nice to get a ‘heads up’ as to what you might be facing down the road.”

The daughter of Jim and Paula Hansen of New Richland, Stewart strives to stick with habits that will help her maintain her busy schedule. Besides serving as a co-pastor, Stewart is active in the Worthington Area Christian Ministers Association, is on the leadership team of the Worthington Area Symphony Orchestra, is the current president of P.E.O. Chapter BT, and is an active flutist and piano accompanist at her church and in several local music groups.

She aims to visit the gym at least three times a week, tries to get seven hours of sleep each night and watches her diet.

“But I’m not afraid to eat an occasional fast food burger and fries, and I’ve got to have chocolate,” she admitted. “And I know I could eat more vegetables, but I don’t enjoy them as much as I should.”

Stewart’s maternal grandmother lived to age 88, and her paternal grandmother survived nearly that long. With her own parents now in their 70s, Stewart is increasingly aware of the need to be attentive to one’s body and its warning signs.

“My dad had a few serious health issues recently, and if he hadn’t been alert to some changes that were indicating potential problems, he might not have sought the necessary medical care in time,” said Stewart.

Stewart’s annual physicals at Sanford Worthington Clinic prompt her appreciation for the availability of skilled local medical care.

“Michelle Kutzke is very thorough and willing to listen and address any concerns I may have,” said Stewart. “Over the years, I’ve had different doctors there, but I’ve always been treated respectfully and been able to be seen by a female practitioner, which is something I appreciate.

“The staff is friendly and professional, appointments have been readily available and Sanford seems dedicated to representing Worthington’s diverse population among its staff members.”

As part of her pastoral work, Stewart teaches a class to her fledgling peers within the Evangelical Covenant Church about vocational excellence.

“It touches on aspects of spiritual, mental/emotional, physical and vocational health,” listed Stewart. “The class stresses the importance of pastors being as healthy as possible in all ways.”

In that regard, Stewart truly endeavors to practice what she preaches, even as she recognizes areas where she has room for improvement.

“I have to schedule a post-50-year-old test in the coming year and I’m not really looking forward to that,” she admitted.

But all things considered, Stewart would rather spend an hour annually at a preventive care checkup than delay a doctor’s appointment until something unpleasant occurs.

“Being forewarned is forearmed, and having the most up-to-date knowledge about your physical health can only be good,” asserted Stewart.

“You might not always enjoy the answers you’re getting to your questions, but isn’t it better to have the information when you can still do something about it?”