Community urged to take steps toward improving heart health

PLATTSBURGH Thirty minutes a day may seem like an insignificant amount of time, but people like David F. Champagne III want the community to know it can improve health and lessen the risk of heart disease and stroke. Champagne, who serves as managing director of the Wyeth Pharmaceuticals manufacturing facility in Rouses Point, drove that point home during his address at the Plattsburgh Start! Walking Day leadership breakfast at the Plattsburgh Elks Lodge April 16. He stated Wyeth has initiated several health and fitness initiatives to promote a healthier workforce based on the key principles of education, nutrition and fitness. Wyeth attempts to educate its employees through its Lunch and Learn program, which routinely features speakers such as dieticians and nutritionists from CVPH Medical Center to discuss healthy eating, among other topics. Education is paired with offering more nutritional choices in the company cafeteria, such as salads, wraps and fresh vegetables, said Champagne. Nurses are even on staff offering employees the ability to develop with them a healthy eating program. If you look at where we were 10 years ago compared to where we are today with our cafeteria, its night and day, said Champagne. While becoming educated about healthy choices and improving eating habits are essential to overall health, said Champagne, the fitness component is just as crucial. Wyeth established a state-of-the-art on-site fitness center for employees, consisting of treadmills, cross trainers, stationary bicycles, rowing machines, and an area for aerobic activities such as pilates. The center is used heavily, with approximately it being accessed 800 times a month, Champagne said. It was well worth the investment, Champagne said. Most companies dont have to go to that extreme, he added. Developing a walking path in or around a business facility is a simpler way to take steps toward the same goal. In addition to its fitness center, Wyeth has created pedestrian corridors designated for its company walking program, which offers a chance for employees to get some cardiovascular exercise on their breaks or before and after work during the week. Why would a business want to improve the health of its employees? The answer is simple, said Champagne. When people are healthy, theyre more productive, theyre at work and you usually have better performance, he said. However, the success of a program to promote improving health takes commitment and support, Champagne said. That support is usually fostered when others take the initiative to become active and sort of positive peer pressure develops, he said. Champagne, who lives in Plattsburgh, also tries to serve as a positive example for those wanting to get in shape, by occasionally bicycling to work a distance of approximately 27 miles one-way. You dont have to be a marathon runner, you dont have to bike to work every day ... But, there are simple things you can do and as an employer to promote good health, he said. Debra LaPorte of Champlain, another featured speaker at the event, also encouraged businesses and individuals to increase their physical activity. However, LaPorte, who lost her son Nicholas to unexplained heart complications in May 2006, said while taking on a healthy lifestyle can make a difference, efforts must be taken a step further to promote research, education and advocacy for heart-related conditions. Families should make sure they know their full medical history and be willing to undergo noninvasive procedures to detect heart disease and other possible heart conditions in early adulthood, she said. Most dont exhibit signs heart conditions until its too late, she added. Our story is a sad story, but through this tragedy, we hope to bring awareness to this cause and that is why we are advocates of the American Heart Association and that is why we are here today, said LaPorte. One death is one death too many especially if its preventable, she added. During the event, official recognition went to the Press-Republican for being the second business in the North Country to achieve the gold level of the AHAs Fit-Friendly Companies Program. Wyeth was the first, receiving the recognition in September 2007. Its not rocket science, what we do at Wyeth, Champagne said. Really, support is what it comes down to supporting your employees and taking the time to let them know their health is important to you.

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