Healthy aging: Seniors get wellness tips at annual seminar

Elvis impersonator Richard Parker, of Browntown, entertains senior citizens during the Senior Choices seminar held Thursday at the Woodstock Moose. Rich Cooley/Daily
Bulah Fravel, 92, of Woodstock, listens to Dr. Suzanne Stevens speak about arthritis during the Senior Choices seminar. Rich Cooley/Daily
Dr. Suzanne Stevens discusses how seniors can manage their arthritis. Rich Cooley/Daily
Physical therapist Suzanne Loveland shows a model of the spine as Cheri Wright, director of the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce, assists her during the Senior Choices seminar. Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Over 100 community members learned how to stay healthy as they age and were entertained by an Elvis impersonator during the third annual Senior Choices seminar at the Woodstock Moose Lodge on Thursday morning.

Dr. Rabia Arshad, of Valley Health’s Shenandoah Memorial Hospital, was there to discuss preventing and managing hypertension. She said her talk would be about “how to not die of high blood pressure.”

High blood pressure, she lectured, is the force exerted by blood on tissues and has two components: the salt component of the blood and the thickness of the artery. When arteries narrow, it can cause death.

“This is a very dangerous condition,” she warned.

Arshad added that 1 in 3 Americans have high blood pressure. High salt consumption can lead to high blood pressure. One and a half grams of sodium, she said, is considered healthy in a daily diet, but the average American diet contains 5 grams of sodium each day.

A gradual change in diet can help lower blood pressure, as well as regular exercise. Medication may also be required if blood pressure begins to reach dangerous and toxic levels, she said.

Lois Polk, 84, of Edinburg, said this was her first year at the event and is happy she attended. She said she found the presentations “very informative” and especially found the discussion on blood pressure to be helpful.

She said she hopes to attend next year’s event, which is scheduled for Sept. 28, 2017.

Also at the event was Geoffrey White, of the Virginia Department of Veteran Services. He told attendees that services are offered to widows of veterans and to veterans, themselves.

He said anyone with questions should contact him at the Strasburg office at 540-635-4201.

Following White was Dr. Suzanne Stevens, of Valley Health Orthopedics in New Market, who gave advice on managing arthritis.

She said arthritis is caused by inflammation of the joints and is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.

She added that there are over 100 different types of arthritis, with 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. and 1 in 250 children affected by the condition.

“That translates into 50 million people in the United States and 300,000 babies and children with arthritis,” she said. “Because of the growth in our population and the growth in our senior citizen population, it is expected to grow by the year 2030 to 67 million people with arthritis.”

She said the causes of arthritis include wear and tear from the natural aging, trauma and constant use. Other causes are from inflammatory processes and she gave examples of squatting and falling that cause inflammation.

Symptoms of arthritis include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range motion, she said.

The types of arthritis are degenerative, inflammatory, infectious and metabolic, she added. Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes.

She said risk factors for developing arthritis include obesity, genetics, occupational factors and previous injury.

Arthritis can be treated with medication, proper exercise, therapy and surgery. She added that arthritis can’t be cured, but can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight and getting physical, controlling blood sugar, avoiding injury and by maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle.

Suzanne Loveland, a physical therapist with Valley Health’s Shenandoah Memorial Hospital Outpatient Rehab Services, also spoke at the event and detailed the effects of osteopenia and osteoporosis and how to relieve pain through proper posture.

Loveland said osteoporosis is skeletal fragility and osteopenia is low bone density.

“The micro-architecture of the bone becomes structurally faulty and weakens,” she said. “If you can picture a honeycomb, the bridges or walls of the honeycomb become thin and weaken and then they compress or collapse.”

“It’s a silent disease,” she added, explaining that people don’t know they have it until they experience a fracture or receive a bone densitometry scan, which is the only scan available to measure bone density.

“There are many things we do not know about osteoporosis and we don’t have a way to measure someone’s bone quality and other things related to the potential for a fracture,” she said.

She said these conditions affect over 54 million Americans and it occurs in more than one half of the total U.S. population, affecting half of all women and one in four men. She added that less than one-third with osteoporosis are diagnosed and 14 percent receive appropriate treatment.

She also provided information on ways to prevent fracture by making bones stronger.

“Fracture prevention consists primarily of maximizing your bone strength and preventing falls,” she said.

She said one way to keep bones strong is through proper posture to relieve stress in the spine. Her suggestion prompted attendees to sit up straighter.

“The worst position for us to be in is sitting,” she said. “Sit less, walk more and if you’re too tired lay flat.”

Standing straight and lying flat on the back are better for your spine. When sitting, she said to sit with the knees slightly lower than the hips because it tilts your pelvis forward and keeps an arch in the lower back and will also allow for a better ribcage and thoracic spine posture.

Following the presenters, Chef Barbara Hineline, of Winchester, showed the attendees how to make a healthy beef stew base and roux with minimal ingredients, with rice pudding for dessert.

Ending the event was an Elvis impersonator who provided a bit of excitement following the presentations. He sang and danced to hit Elvis songs in a bedazzling Elvis outfit. The crowd clapped and danced along to the beat as he gave one on one attention to a few audience members by kneeling and holding their hands.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or

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