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Dancing a matter of heart at St. James event

Phlebotomist Millie Fratleft does glucose screen for Jackie Roberts Homewood during National Day Dance for Your Health St. James Health

Phlebotomist Millie Fratto, left, does a glucose screen for Jackie Roberts, of Homewood, during the National Day of Dance for Your Health at the St. James Health and Wellness Institute in Chicago Heights. | Jean Lachat~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: April 11, 2013 6:45AM



Feet were stepping, hips swaying, and hands waving Thursday night as women of all ages from throughout the Southland danced for their health in honor of the national Day of Dance.

For three hours, they moved from the Electric Slide to two-stepping to salsa to rock ‘n’ roll and even some hip-hop and ballroom dance music at the St. James Health and Wellness Institute in Chicago Heights.

Nearly 700 participants registered at the venue, according to Jeff Lebioda, senior brand specialist for Franciscan St James Health.

While the music played, attendees enjoyed fruits and vegetables, raffles prizes, visiting vendors, learning about health care services, socializing and, of course, dancing.

The purpose was to raise awareness about heart disease prevention and living a healthy lifestyle.

“Dancing is good because it helps the heart rate,” Lebioda said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last year that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Franciscan St. James president Seth Warren said in a news release that nearly twice as many U.S. women die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases than from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer.

Dr. Michael Simpson had a booth at the event promoting healthy living.

“Dance is important because it promotes being active, which is very important,” he said. “Staying active and in their ideal weight can avoid certain risks like high blood pressure and heart disease.”

Dancing can burn up to 400 calories per hour, according to St. James.

Renee Chatmon made a personal commitment this year to stay active. She was among the women doing the “Electric Slide” on Thursday, but it wasn’t just the dancing that brought her. At 49, she decided it was time to do something for herself and make a lifestyle change.

Like many participants, Chatmon took time to visit vendor booths as well.

St. James also provided health resources and information.

“We’re promoting St. James services as well,” Lebioda said. “Participants can find information about all our major services like rehabilitation, cardiovascular, pain management, physical therapy and cancer.”

Free health screenings were available for body mass index, blood pressure, bone density, and blood glucose and cholesterol levels. A slew of volunteers helped make the Second Annual Day of Dance possible.

“I wanted to be a part of a good thing,” said Ashley McGinnis, a human resources executive assistant at St. James Hospital. “And it’s a good way to get the community to learn about healthy living.”

Some attendees, such as Mark Blanchard, 72, came strictly for the health screenings. This was his second time attending the event, and he underwent a bone density screening and health evaluation.

“It is a very informative and helpful event and I get the chance to socialize with people in the same situation I’m in,” he said.



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