It was a day of dance for women across the country, but the festive music, refreshments, red-heart-shaped balloons and free heart-health screenings attracted men, too – young and old.
It may have been the free health screenings that got them in the door, but anyone peeking in the St. Francis High School gym Feb. 26 would say the music kept them there. People of all ages, sizes and movement abilities boogied to the beat – as well as they could boogie.
The second annual Day of Dance, inspired by Spirit of Women and hosted by the Women’s Hospital at El Camino Hospital, commemorated February’s American Heart Month.
“This event is a celebration of dance, exercise and learning more about women’s heart health,” said Michele van Zuiden, Women’s Hospital executive director, in a welcoming statement.
Sponsor groups, physicians from across the county, dance groups, health-care workers and other volunteers offered screenings, instruction, advice and expertise to educate participants about the growing epidemic in heart health.
“They’re all focused on how to improve heart health for women, signs and symptoms of heart disease – and other issues,” said El Camino spokeswoman Judy Twitchell.
Every 34 seconds, heart disease kills someone in this country – more than 2,500 Americans each day, according to mamashealth.com. And for American women, heart attacks are the leading cause of death. Heart and cardiovascular disease and strokes kill nearly twice as many women as all types of cancers combined, including breast cancer.
Spirit of Women is a national, partnership network of hospitals and health-care systems that promote positive interaction between women and health-care providers – helping women and their families navigate through an often-complicated system. El Camino Hospital announced its alliance with Spirit of Women in May 2009.
Day of Dance began at 11:30 a.m. – plenty of time for a lazy, sleep-in weekend – with a stretch and warmup session led by local fitness guru Joanie Greggains. And it didn’t matter what dancers needed for support – canes, caregivers, walkers or partners – the gym was filled with bodies dancing to the rhythm of eight types of dance, from flamenco to Zumba, instructed by several Bay Area dance and fitness groups.
Yukari Sakaguchi dragged her boyfriend, Michi Nakahara, to the event – but he wasn’t screaming.
“I came to support the cause and because I like dancing,” Nakahara said. “I’m a social worker and I’m interested in women’s, seniors’ and others’ issues.”
It was the beat that beckoned Vlad Kulchitskiy.
“I like dancing,” he said. “I just wanted to see all kinds of dance today.”
While he was there, Kulchit-skiy thought it would be a good idea to get screened.
When attendees weren’t dancing or visiting vendor booths lining the dance floor – aka the Lancers’ basketball court – they registered for screenings. And women weren’t the only ones waiting in line, as many men signed up for the complimentary blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol and glucose monitoring screens.
“It could be their only chance,” Twitchell said. “It’s a great (way) to bring medicine directly to the people.”
“It was pretty cool,” Kulchit-skiy said of the screenings. “I think it’s good that they have this kind of stuff.”
Eric Malmstrom drove his mother to the event and took advantage of the screenings while his mom joined the dancing.
“I haven’t seen a doctor in a while,” he said. “And I actually got some footage of my mother dancing.”
Eighteen stations set up in the school’s cafeteria offered nine different screenings, including cholesterol, Body Mass Index, cardiovascular risk assessment and podiatry, which check for circulatory-problem indications.
Attendee Michele Rioux said she was grateful El Camino was offering the screenings.
“Not everybody has insurance,” she said. “This is really a good chance for me.”
Physicians were available to answer questions at the “Ask the Doc” booth, and cardiologists Drs. Catherine A. Collings and Neal Scott presented short heart-health lectures between dance segments.
“My job is to keep you healthy and well,” Scott said, citing statistics that a Mediterranean diet reduces heart disease and cancer.
Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, fish and increasing physical activity also reduce postmenopausal problems as well as risk of heart attack, he said. And, don’t begrudge yourself the bubbly.
“The people who drink moderately lived the longest,” Scott said of research data.
This year’s event boasted moderate improvements, Twitchell said. Last year’s Day of Dance took place at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Holding the event at St. Francis localized it. Last year, dance programs and screenings took place in one large room.
“The dancing made it difficult to hear the heart (and measure) pressure,” Twitchell said.
And though the Lancers’ brown and gold colors clashed with Day of Dance’s red-themed event, there’s no question which colors showed the most spirit.