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Column: Seniors Get Lesson on Heart Health

— Senior Services of Alexandria teamed up with Inova Alexandria Hospital for their February speaker series on "Heart Health and Fitness for Seniors." More than 75 Alexandria seniors heard from local experts on how to choose healthier food options; how to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle in just 12 weeks; and got an introduction to the new Robust Walking Program designed by fitness guru, Dr. Dan Kulund. Christine Candio, CEO of the hospital welcomed the audience.

Jane Sparnon, a registered dietician with Inova Alexandria Hospital kicked off the session by helping attendees separate fact from fiction when deciding what foods are healthy. She emphasized the importance of eating a variety of colorful vegetables — fresh, frozen or canned. Other healthy food options include fruits, whole-grains, lean meats, reducing sodium, and dark chocolate! Attendees were treated to a heart-healthy breakfast casserole.

Dr. Maria Cristina Castillo-Catoni, a primary care physician board certified in internal medicine with the Inova Medical Group at Mark Center, discussed how in 12 weeks anyone can maintain a heart healthy lifestyle. The 12-week plan includes picking one goal to achieve each week — reducing fat intake, limiting saturated fats, reducing cholesterol, staying active and eating breakfast every day.

The City of Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities led the group in stretching and previewed their new recreation programs for seniors 55 and up. The “Power 55 Plus” catalogue lists classes from jewelry making to square dancing to the latest craze, “Pickleball.” What is really great is that seniors 55 and over get 20 percent off on the classes offered and some classes are free.

Another class offered is the new “Robust Walking” program designed by Dr. Dan Kulund who is a board certified orthopedic surgeon and a member of the City of Alexandria's Commission on Aging. A robust walker inserts exercises into a walk using environmental objects, such as benches, walls, poles and trees as props. You won’t want to miss the March 9 session at Cora Kelly Recreation Center that will get you on the road to becoming a robust walker. For more information, call Cora Kelly at 703-746-5554.

SSA’s speaker series continues next month with a March event that will focus on “Maintaining Memory and Coping with its Loss.” This free event will be held on Wednesday, March 13 at 9:30 a.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church. You’ll hear from experts about techniques to keep your memory sharp and programs to support families and caregivers who have loved ones dealing with memory loss. You can register by visiting SSA’s website at www.seniorservicesalex.org or call 703-836-4414, ext. 10.