The second annual Heart Healthy, Heart Happy – a River Valley Weigh of Life event – was held Saturday morning at Saint Mary’s Wellness Fitness Center. More than 200 people attended the event sponsored by Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center. Sisters Susan Cook and Sheri Mitzel were among the crowd. Mitzel brought her husband, “because (she) wanted Stan to get his cholesterol checked.” A free cholesterol screenings was one of the event offerings. Cook and Mitzel have recently begun paying more attention to their health – their mother and brother are both diabetic. Beyond “getting fit and staying healthy,” they have different goals. Cook is looking to maintain her weight and learn information she can pass onto her son. At 10, her 144- pound son is among the growing number of overweight children in the U.S. Mitzel, on the other hand, is looking to lose weight, and she’s doing quite well. Together the sisters signed up for River Valley Weigh of Life in mid-January, and they starting attending Simply Fit for Life classes at the same time. Mitzel uses the food template provided by the class instructor, as well as strength exercises learned in the once-a-week meetings. Mitzel has also begun taking a break at work in the afternoon to stretch. She said, “Taking more time to stretch really helps me complete the afternoon at my desk.” At the weekly class weigh-ins, Mitzel continues to drop “two to three pounds per week.” Both sisters took advantage of the free screenings Saturday. They realize the importance of monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose and other factors for a healthy life. In addition to free screenings, other booths set up in the Fitness Center basketball court included Subway, The Courier and various hospital-sponsored clubs. The snack table hosted pyramids of fruit, anchored by bottled water, courtesy of The Water Store. The table proved popular to those who had spent 12 hours fasting for a screening. Seminars were available upstairs in the aerobics room. Lisa Ivy, a nurse practitioner with Little Rock Cardiology – Russellville, delivered a powerful presentation on cardiovascular disease. She spoke on the risk factors of the disease, with heavy emphasis on cholesterol.Ivy explained the difference in “good and bad” cholesterol, saying, “You can remember LDL is bad cholesterolor lousy cholesterol. HDL is good cholesterol. You can remember that as happy cholesterol.” Ivy was followed by registered dietician Rhonda Monfee. Monfee said she grew up working on a farm, could drive a tractor and was, unintentionally, very physically active. When she went to college and “developed a social life” that included late-night calls to local pizza joints, she quickly gained 30 pounds. Monfee knows firsthand the importance of diet and exercise. She suffers from Type 2 diabetes. Monfee is sometimes insulin-dependent, but says she knows she’ll need insulin if she gets off her exercise schedule.Monfee gave an incredibly entertaining and informative talk on obesity and common myths and misconceptions about everyday foods. (See sidebar.) Adam Hanry, executive chef of the newly renamed Winthrop Rockefeller Center (formerly Winrock International) finished up the series of seminars.Hanry cooked a heart healthy meal including sea bass, orzo pasta, asparagus and chocolate-covered strawberries, and the aroma filled the building. Mike McCoy, CEO of Saint Mary’s, said, “We are happy to provide Heart Healthy, Heart Happy and River Valley Weigh of Life to the community. I am very pleased we had such great participation, and I hope everyone stays inspired to live healthy.” Common food myths and misconceptions Rhonda Monfee, a registered dietician who spoke at Heart Healthy, Heart Happy on Saturday, delivered a shocking presentation on food myths and misconceptions.


Below are several factual excerpts from her presentation:








  • Different food choices can lower cholesterol by 40 percent.
  • There are more than 30 varieties of fruit.
  • “We are all born with a taste for sweets; the taste for salt is acquired.”
  • Most people can only absorb 300 to 400 calories at a time. An average restaurant serving is now 1500 to 3000 calories.
  • Men are designed to eat every four hours; women are designed to eat every three.
  • “Think of Cheetos. Now what food group does that come from? You may not want to eat it ifyou don’t know.”
  • It’s cheaper for manufacturers to make white bread than whole wheat. Wheat is not the same as whole wheat. Monfee calls wheat bread “white with caramalized coloring,” and recommends 100 percent whole wheat.
  • Steak is measured against egg as the gold standard for protein.