Small Changes Improve Family's Health
Donna Barr hopes her two daughters inherit many of her husband’s family’s traits, but heart disease is not one of them. At age 40, her mother-in-law had open heart surgery and at age 32, her brother-in-law had a heart attack.
A little more than a year ago, the disease hit closer to home. When Donna’s husband Ed, 47, experienced heartburn-like symptoms during exertion, he decided to have a stress test. It indicated heart disease and a subsequent cardiac catheterization pinpointed two blockages that nearly completely blocked the main artery leading to his heart. Interventional cardiologist Doyle Walton, MD, performed coronary angioplasty and inserted two stents to remove the blockage and stabilize blood flow. Soon thereafter, Ed participated in cardiac rehabilitation at Grand View Hospital’s Outpatient Center at Sellersville.
Ed wasn’t the only family member who raised Donna’s concern, however. The Barr’s 8-year-old daughter, Rachel, had been steadily gaining weight. Rachel was hardly obese, but her weight no longer aligned with the curve of her growth chart. Her clothes were tight and finding new ones that fit comfortably was difficult. “I thought if this continues in the next few years, where are we going to be? I wanted to reverse the trend before Rachel reached her teenage years, where being overweight would make adolescence more challenging,” Donna said.
More importantly, Donna knew that being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. That fact, coupled with the Barr family history, spurred Donna into taking action. She enrolled Rachel in Grand New Youth, a pediatric weight management and healthy lifestyle program.
The only medically-based program of its kind in Bucks and Montgomery counties, Grand New Youth helps children and their families address the environmental, behavioral, dietary, and physical factors that contribute to obesity. Led by Deborah Faccenda, MD, the program’s team of dedicated professionals treat overweight children ages four though 17. Consisting of a physician, dietitian, and exercise therapist, the team helps children and their families achieve and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
||I knew it wasn’t Rachel’s fault. It was mine because I wasn’t feeding her right,” Donna said. “I wasn’t paying attention to portion control. I hadn’t looked at recipes to determine their fat and calorie content.”
Donna was eager to learn how to improve her family’s diet. Working with dietitian Pat Dinunzio-Ruth, who Donna describes as a “wealth of knowledge,” she made little changes that had big results in lowering cholesterol. “Now I take a lot more time going through magazines for healthier recipes,” she said. “It’s been fun. I’m a more careful shopper. I learned how to read and compare labels and I buy more fruits and vegetables, trading off junk for healthier items.”
“The effort paid off. Rachel has lost about five pounds while growing two inches. Her BMI decreased from 22, which put her at very high risk for hypertension and heart disease, to 19.5. Rachel’s cholesterol level also dropped from 194 to 170.
Donna credits the entire Grand New Youth team for making Rachel feel comfortable. Dr. Faccenda was always positive and never focused on Rachel’s weight, but rather commended her for making healthy decisions.
“I am very proud of Rachel,” Dr. Faccenda said. “Thanks to her mother’s recognition of a problem early on, her willingness to come to our program regularly, and her hard work at following the nutritionist’s and exercise therapist’s recommendation, Rachel has made great progress and has become a healthier person. The whole family has benefitted from the healthier choices they are making.” Rachel particularly enjoyed working with exercise physiologist Elaine Feiss, who encouraged her to become more active.
With Rachel’s slimmer physique, shopping for clothes is fun again. Meanwhile, Ed has lost about 30 pounds and is much more toned. Even their 13-year-old daughter, Ashley, who has always been thin, is making healthier choices. Although the Barr’s insurance didn’t cover the program and it required time and effort, Donna has never regretted her decision to take Rachel to Grand New Youth. “We consider it an investment in our children’s future health, well being, and self-esteem,” she said.
For more information on the Grand New Youth program at Grand View Hospital, please call 215-453-4100 or click here.