By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Health & Wellness expo stresses lifestyle changes
teddy bear clinic 2020
A Barton Community College nursing student listens to a stuffed animal’s “heartbeat” during the Teddy Bear Clinic at the Central Kansas Health & Wellness Expo, Saturday at the Great Bend Events Center. The Great Bend Tribune hosted this free event promoting healthy lifestyles. - photo by Susan Thacker

“Simplify, simplify.” The words of Henry David Thoreau could serve as a mantra for those wanting to start the new year on a path to better health and wellness. A slate of speakers at the Second Annual Central Kansas Health & Wellness Expo often had similar versions of the same message.

Of course, there were some new and cutting-edge products, as well as community resources, with several vendors featured. The expo, sponsored by the Great Bend Tribune and held at the Great Bend Events Center, focused on ways that people can improve their lifestyles and health in 2020. There were free talks on topics as diverse as mental first aid, stress reduction, financial wellbeing and bird watching, to name a few. The family-friendly event also featured the Great Bend Recreation Commission’s Imagination Playground and the Barton Community College Nursing students’ Teddy Bear Clinic for children.

Berny Unruh, the Hays-based Family Community Wellness agent for the Cottonwood Extension District, had dozens of tips for better eating or becoming more active, but simplified it with her program “5 Steps to Health and Wellness.”

Start with 5

“Let’s start with five,” Unruh said. “We know we can’t change a habit in one week, but maybe we can make some changes and be healthier in 2020.” Her five tips were:

• Drink water. If 8 cups a day seems like too much to start, aim for five at first. It boosts your mood, can lower the odds of a stroke, increases your brainpower and helps with constipation.

• Eat more fruits and vegetables. Again, eight or nine servings a day are fine, but if that seems too challenging, start with five. Add a salad to every meal and put healthy fruit and vegetable snacks where they will be in plain sight.

• Have regular family meals. You’ll save money, the kids can learn how to cook and help with cleanup, and research shows children who partake in family meals on a regular basis are more fit overall and have fewer behavioral problems.

• Make a plan for the week. Set a realistic goal for how many times you will eat at home. “Look at your calendar and find five times a week that you can sit down with your family,” Unruh suggested. When you eat out, have a plan. Often eating half of the entree at the restaurant and taking half home for another meal is a good choice.

• Take time for movement and relaxation. Walking is great exercise, Unruh said. “Take five-minute walks if you’re not used to walking. If your life is sedentary, starting to walk is probably your best way to get started.”

Staying balanced

A more balanced lifestyle was literally the topic presented by Melanie Schroeter with the University of Kansas Health System - Great Bend Campus, who talked about dizziness, balance and vestibular (inner ear/balance) disorders. People over 50 years of age are most likely to develop BPPV, a condition caused by tiny crystals or calcium deposits in the inner ear being out of place. This can cause vertigo, which can cause a fall.

It’s possible to Google techniques to treat your condition at home, but Schroeter doesn’t recommend it. “If you do it on your own you can cause worse issues,” she cautioned. “If you do have this condition, I would advise you to get some help.”

Age and medication can also cause balance issues. Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults, according to the National Council on Aging.

Balance therapy can help, Schroeter said. Untreated balance issues can cause people so avoid moving, which can lead to stiffness, depression and other health issues, she noted.

Another wellness tip that health professionals have been stressing of late is the importance of getting a good night’s sleep. Schroeter also mentioned “sleep hygiene” and stress management, which can affect balance, too. One tip: television and smartphones can stimulate you, so turn off the TV and phone before it’s time to go to bed.