Public Health Week to include free assessment tests and health fairs

March 28, 1997

`An Investment in Your Future'


Staff Writer

Many people cringe when they hear the word "diet."

The term doesn't have to mean restrictive and boring, registered dietitians from Washington County Health Department say.

It's better to think of it as a healthful way of eating, according to Cindy Held, coordinator of Nutrition and Wellness Services; Tammy Thornton, coordinator of Partners in Prevention; and Arleen Shuster, nutritionist for the Women, Infants and Children Program and breast-feeding promotion coordinator.

Activities during Public Health Week in Washington County, April 7 through 13, can offer a good start. The theme is "An Investment in Your Future."


"It's an opportunity for people to become more aware of their health status and learn how to maintain good health," says Dr. Robert Parker, county health officer.

The activities also highlight the role public health workers play in the community, he says.

People of all ages will have the chance to have important health assessments done that they may have put off, says Betty Shank, director of community education and public relations for the department.

Free tests offered Monday, April 7, at Hagerstown Junior College's classroom at Valley Mall include dietary intake, weight management, body composition, blood pressure, and advice and referral on smoking cessation. Blood tests will be offered for $15.

There will be a health fair for children and adults Tuesday, April 8, at Washington County Health Department from 3 to 7 p.m., and one for adults Wednesday, April 9, from 3 to 7 p.m.

Many senior citizens don't have their hearing evaluated, and they can take advantage of the free screenings offered Tuesday, April 8, and Wednesday, April 9, at the health department, Shank says.


Thornton says everyone older than 20 should have a cholesterol test.

People often don't understand the difference between cholesterol in food and in the bloodstream, Thornton says.

Dietary cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in animal tissue and present only in foods from animal sources.

Blood cholesterol is a fat-like substance in the bloodstream. When there is too much cholesterol in the blood, the excess can become trapped in the artery walls. The buildup can cause atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries, which increases the risk of heart disease.

Total cholesterol consists of low-density lipoproteins, or LDLs, and high-density lipoproteins, or HDLs.

LDLs also are known as "bad" cholesterol, and they are the main source of dangerous buildup and blockage in the arteries.

HDLs are known as "good" cholesterol. They remove cholesterol from the arteries and transport it to the liver.

Nutrition counseling

A registered dietitian can tell you how to have variety and balance in your eating plan, Held says.

At nutrition counseling sessions, the client's eating habits are assessed, and lifestyle changes may be recommended.

The registered dietitian considers the client's lifestyle, activity level and the foods he or she eats, then provides objectives and goals, Shuster says.

Choosing the right foods can be difficult when faced with the barrage of low fat and fat-free products on supermarket shelves.

When fat is removed from a product, it often contains more sodium or sugar, Held says.

Parents need to remember that children are not baby adults, and that they need fat and cholesterol in their diets, Shuster says.

Health tips

Other tips for a healthier lifestyle include:

  • Use fewer convenience foods.

"It doesn't cost more to eat healthy," Thornton says.

  • Drink more water.

Add a wedge of lemon or lime if you want.

Many children and teenagers gain weight because they consume so many soft drinks, Thornton says.

  • Watch portion size.

A meat serving should be three ounces when cooked, about the size of a deck of cards, Held says.

  • Get enough exercise.

Start a walking program, which also will help reduce stress.

"It doesn't take a whole lot of exercise to do a lot of good," Thornton says.

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