Monthly Archives: January 2014

Can protecting your heart also help ward off Alzheimer’s?

Many conditions that damage the heart or blood vessels also appear to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, called vascular dementia. That’s a decline in thinking skills caused by blocked or reduced blood flow to the brain, which deprives brain cells of vital oxygen and nutrients.


Lifestyle factors that raise your risk of heart disease and may also increase your chance of developing Alzheimer’s or vascular dementia include:

  • smoking
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • poorly controlled diabetes
  • a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables
  • lack of social engagement

What’s the connection?

Although researchers are still working to understand Alzheimer’s disease, studies suggest that many people who have features in the brain that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s may not develop symptoms unless they also have vascular (blood vessel) disease. So, researchers theorize, controlling cardiovascular disease risk factors may be helpful in protecting brain health. If you can prevent vascular disease, there may be potential for also preventing Alzheimer’s in some cases.

Protect heart and brain health

You can take steps to protect your heart and brain health with these guidelines:

  1. Use up as many calories as you take in to maintain your weight. If you need to lose weight, use up more calories than you eat. Also, choose your calories wisely. The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that every day, you aim for at least 4½ cups of fruits and vegetables, three one-ounce servings of whole-grain products and less than1,500 mg of sodium. Every week, eat at least two 3½-ounce servings of fish and four servings of nuts, legumes and seeds. Limit sugar-sweetened beverages to no more than 36 ounces and processed meats to no more than two servings per week. Keep saturated fats to no more than 7 percent of your total calories.
  2. Get at least a half-hour of physical activity most days. The AHA suggests at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise. You don’t have to exercise 30 minutes at a time. Two or three 10 to 15 minute segments a day are also beneficial. Include moderate to high intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least two days a week.
  3. Quit smoking if you currently smoke. Knowing why you want to quit and getting assistance with quitting can help you stick to your plan. That may include counseling, education or medications. Visit the American Lung Association for help with smoking cessation.]
  4. Control your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Good diet and exercise habits can help keep all of these in check. In addition, working closely with your health care provider can help you keep your levels under control.
  5. Scientists don’t have all the answers about how to prevent Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. But living a heart-healthy lifestyle is certainly good for your heart, and it may benefit your brain, too!


Leave a comment

Banana Walnut Oatmeal

This heart-healthy recipe is high in fiber and low in cholesterol. A great way to start your day!

⅔ cup milk (nonfat, dry)
1 pinch salt
2¾ cups water
2 cups oats (quick cooking)
2 bananas (very ripe, mashed)
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. walnuts (chopped)
Optional: Substitute 2 cups water or 2 cups skim milk for the reconstituted nonfat dry milk.


  • In a small saucepan, combine reconstituted nonfat dry milk, salt and water.
  • Heat over medium heat until steaming hot, but not boiling.
  • Add oats and cook, stirring until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from heat and stir in mashed banana and maple syrup.
  • Divide between four bowls, garnish with walnuts and serve.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 340 calories, 6g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 5mg cholesterol, 190mg sodium, 60g carbohydrates, 6g dietary fiber, 25g sugar, 14g protein.

Recipe courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Leave a comment

Skip the Fad Diet and Aim to Succeed

012414_AnnaGraceRotskoAnna Grace Rotsko is a Dietetic Intern at Rex Wellness Center through North Carolina Central University. She is passionate about delicious foods that are also good for your health.

Many New Year’s resolutions are geared towards weight loss. This can be a great goal to help you feel better for many reasons: positive health changes, and improved self esteem, and who doesn’t want their clothes to fit better? But, did you know that how you go about completing this goal affects the outcome? Fad diets focus on a “one size fits all” quick fix, but this does not lead to lasting results for many reasons:

012414_faddiet11. Fad diets may not promote balanced meals.

Many diets deny certain types of food but our bodies are built to eat all of them in the amounts that are right for us – fat, carbohydrates (grains, starches, fruit, breads), and protein. Cutting out certain food groups is dangerous and can lead to deficiencies or other health risks.

2. Fad diets don’t teach long lasting lifestyle changes.

Fad diets usually last a few weeks or a few months so as soon as the diet is over it is easy to fall back into old habits and put back any weight that was lost. They don’t teach how to eat for your continued health.


3. Fad diets often require serious restrictions.

Making changes that are too severe makes us less likely to stick with the diet and can lead to weight gain instead of loss. Also, if calories are too low our bodies start to conserve energy and it can become even harder to lose weight.

4. Fad diets usually require you to purchase specific food.

This food is highly processed, usually very high in sodium, or you have to rely on them to supply your food. Though these foods may help with your weight loss short term, they can have negative long term health consequences and can cost a lot of money.

012414_faddiet35. Fad diets don’t always add exercise.

Exercise is extremely important for your health. It helps use the energy that food gives us, build muscle, lose fat, and help us maintain healthy blood pressure and blood sugar. If your weight loss plan does not include exercise, it is missing a key component.

6. Fad diets have a specific start and a end date.

Fad diets give you a time frame for weight loss, but what happens after the diet is “finished”? Instead of dieting, learn how to eat well and what is right for you… It can be more delicious than you realize.

*     *     *

So what can you do instead of following a Fad diet? See a Registered Dietitian (R.D.)! They will not only help you set up realistic goals for weight loss, but they will also create a meal plan that is tailored to your personal needs, schedule, likes, and dislikes all while using real food. They are there for accountability and to help you out along your journey.

Some insurance companies even cover nutritional counseling visits to a Licensed Registered Dietitian – call your provider for more information. To find a R.D. in your area visit or call your insurance company to find one in your network. Also consider signing up for the Healthy Way program through Rex Wellness Centers!

Take the first steps to weight loss that lasts! Make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian today.

Leave a comment

Juan’s Rex Wellness Center Success Story

If you are setting a New Year’s goal to slim down-do not put “diet” on your list. According to Shelly Wegman, a nutritionist for the Rex Wellness Centers, “Diets make you deny yourself something, which is why they fail.” For some, the New Year brings along with it a time of renewed commitment to self-improvement and that means setting many ambitious goals for the future. It might be to work toward a promotion, organize your home, make healthier decisions or lose weight.

Juan Hernandez before he started his wellness program.

Juan Hernandez before he started his wellness program.

If becoming healthier and losing weight are your goals for the New Year, where should you start? Juan Hernandez, a member of the Rex Wellness Center in Garner, seems to have the answer.

For more than two years, Juan struggled with medical issues that left both his wife and him stressed, exhausted and often sick. In January 2011, after yet another round of medical issues, Juan knew he needed to make a lifestyle change. He joined the Rex Wellness Center in Garner at the end of January after seeing an online advertisement for a program called The Healthy Way. At the wellness center, he was given a free assessment and decided to join The Healthy Way class. The class, which combines nutrition education, exercise and a focus on well-being, met once a week for 12 weeks. “We help with goal-setting, barriers to change and setting up a meal plan that works with your specific needs,” says Wegman, one of the presenters of The Healthy Way program. Wegman lists three common barriers to New Year’s resolutions that relate to healthy weight and wellness-unrealistic expectations, time and lack of motivation.

It all starts by setting a realistic goal.

Last January, Juan’s goals were simple: To make a change in his life and get healthy overall. Whether that meant eating better, being stronger or just more flexible, he was going to feel better. One year later he’s still at it and he reminds us that simple is not the same as easy. Making a change, like Juan did, is anything but easy. “I had to totally restructure my habits and my schedule,” he says.

Find the time to eat healthy and move.

Programs like The Healthy Way and many others can help, but if joining a fitness facility isn’t a possibility at this point, there is still plenty that you can do at home to achieve wellness. The key is to take small steps and work your way up. A realistic food goal could be portion control, while an exercise goal could be to take a walk three times a week. Creating overly ambitious goals, such as working out five times a week at the start or completely removing all fatty foods from your diet, can lead to frustration and failure.

A meal plan should be designed to fit your needs. If you can, consider meeting with a dietician to discuss your goals and ways to work toward them. “It doesn’t have to be expensive to eat right,” says Wegman. “It just depends on what you buy. You will spend the most money on fruits, vegetables and meat, but if you are trying to save money, frozen fruits and veggies are a good alternative, as is buying local produce. Beans and eggs are also healthy choices and are not very expensive.” Wegman stresses portion control and suggests, “If you take smaller portions, your money will go farther.”

Juan Hernandez after one year of making healthy lifestyle choices.

Juan Hernandez after one year of making healthy lifestyle choices.

Rex Wellness personal trainer Learie Joseph suggests that you use your goals to determine the steps you should take next. “If you want to exercise more, there are many activities that can be done at home, including push-ups, pull-ups, lunges and squats, walks with family and going to the park. It also may be helpful to do these activities with a friend or family member. Sticking to a new task may be difficult if you are doing it alone and a partner can provide motivation.”

Staying motivated.

Over the last year, Juan has followed the advice of Wegman and Joseph, and used the information he learned from The Healthy Way class at the Rex Wellness Center. Thirty pounds later, Juan is off of his medications for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. He no longer needs his Bi-Pap machine to help him get a restful night’s sleep and has reduced his waist size by seven inches.

“I have more energy, I am sleeping better and I am happier all around,” says Juan. When asked what his next goals are, Juan replied that he wants to continue his efforts and work toward dropping his weight to 200 pounds. “Eventually, I would really like to run again and be lighter on my feet,” says Juan, who was an avid runner in high school.

Article by Kendra Jordan and Jenny Johnson. Kendra Jordon and Jenny Johnson work in the marketing and public relations department at Rex Healthcare.

Leave a comment

James’ Rex Wellness Center Success Story

JamesJames, a member of Rex Wellness Center of Garner, has made life changing achievements through regular exercise.

Not long ago, his physician told him that he was close to having a heart attack. Since then, James began treadmill walking and with the help of the wellness center staff, he is now running!

James participates in both 5k and 10k races and recently placed 4th in his age division in a 10k competition.

The Trekking class is encouraging him to do a triathlon.

As a result of his commitment to exercise, James won a weight loss competition at work and no longer needs diabetic medication.

Way to go James!

Leave a comment

Archie’s Rex Wellness Success Story

archieArchie first came to Rex Wellness Center of Raleigh for Cardiac Rehab in 1999. Since then he has made huge advances in health and wellness.

He participated in Healthy Way in 2004 and still tracks his nutrition to this day. Archie enjoys taking the Cycling classes with his wife and also participates in swimming classes, and TRX.

Archie’s daily motivators are the concerned instructors and staff who encourage him, think of his health first and performance second, and his classmates at Rex Wellness Center of Raleigh.

“They are friendly, helpful, and non judgmental.” The steady improvements in overall health and endurance motivate Archie.

Being active for Archie is “fun” and will allow him to continue to enjoy his two grandchildren.

Leave a comment

Mary’s Rex Wellness Success Story

story-maryMary, a long time member of Rex Wellness Center of Garner, credits her success to being an “exercise groupie” after training alone for years.

In addition to running, she regularly attends Trekking, Cycling, Zumba, Rep Reebok and Body Shaping.

She loves the group exercise classes, not only for the awesome workouts, but for the motivation from the instructors.

When she hits an exercise slump, Mary takes time to look back at her accomplishments and recreates the joy and pride she felt while achieving them.

Mary has set a remarkable personal goal of completing one 8k, seven 5k’s and five triathlons (three super sprints and two sprints) in one year.

Congratulations Mary!

Leave a comment

Cindy’s Rex Wellness Success Story

cindyCindy joined Rex Wellness Centers at the age of 35.

For the first year, she worked out sporadically, not seriously. She had never exercised and didn’t think there was anything she’d enjoy about it.

After some convincing, she enrolled in the Healthy Way program. She was determined that she could make healthy eating and exercise a lifestyle, while still enjoying her food and having fun.

By the end of the 12-week program, Cindy had lost 25 pounds. Eight months after the program ended, through continued practice of what she’d learned in class, Cindy had lost 60 pounds!

She is proud to say that she has maintained her weight loss through doing exercise she loves – cycling – and making better food choices.

She knows it will always be a work in progress, but she’s confident she now has the tools to adapt!

Leave a comment

Heather’s Rex Wellness Success Story

HeatHeatherher, a dedicated Rex Wellness member since January 2010, set an initial goal to become healthier so she could participate in some adventurous backpacking.

She regularly attended classes that made all the difference: TRX and Boot Camp.

Every time she comes in to the facility to work out she said the staff keeps her motivated with regular encouragement and by challenging her with new work outs. “They know my name and it’s like I have my own personal cheerleaders!”

Heather said the key for her continued success is setting small goals and rewarding herself when she reaches them.

She thinks about the progress she has made (over 100 lbs. of weight loss!) when she needs a boost.

When people ask me how I’ve made so much progress – I have three words for them – Body by Rex!

Leave a comment

Lyle’s Rex Wellness Success Story

Lyle joined Rex Wellness Center of Wakefield in November of 2009.

When Lyle started his journey to wellness he weighed over 500 lbs!

His physician told him he needed to shed pounds and do it quickly. Lyle had to make some major changes and realized he could accomplish them through diet and exercise.

He adopted the philosophy of “Doing Better.” His goal was to do better than he had the day before, the week before, and the meal before. Lyle has lost over half his starting weight and is proud to say he is “half the man he used to be!”

Congratulations, Lyle, we are so proud of you and your wellness achievements!

Leave a comment