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Expo at Ga. Mountains Center focuses on healthy habits
Event included information, free health screenings
People make their way to booths during today's fifth annual HealthSmart Wellness Expo at the Georgia Mountains Center in Gainesville. The expo offered interactive wellness services such as free health screenings and educational booths. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Most fit companies

The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce awarded the following companies as part of the VISION 2030 HealthSmart Community Challenge. Criteria included wellness, nutrition and fitness opportunities provided for employees.
Large company (more than 250 employees): Northeast Georgia Health System
Medium company (51-250 employees): Harris Products
Small company (50 or fewer employees): Electronic Sales

Roger Walters checks another health concern off his list Wednesday as he visits interactive booths at the fifth annual HealthSmart Expo.

Fifty-five health care organizations provided information, and some gave free health screenings, at the fifth annual event at the Georgia Mountains Center in downtown Gainesville.

"So far, since I've been here, I've had my teeth looked at, my blood drawn, my blood pressure checked on my arms and my ankles. Pretty much trying to do as much as possible," Walters said.

Betty McDouglad and her friend Nancy Woodrum both took an Ankle-Brachial Index test.

The test measures blood pressure in the ankle and the upper arm and compares the results to determine if there may be a blood clot in the body. Blood clots can be deadly and cause heart attacks and strokes.

"I think all this stuff is great. I never had that done before," McDougland said.

The expo, which drew hundreds, gave visitors an opportunity to learn about the local health care community and their own health.

"Every year this event helps somebody recognize that they are in serious need of medical attention, elevated blood pressure, about to have a heart attack or a stroke or something. It is such a wonderful community service the chamber and the partners provide," said Linda Barrow, vice president of Lanier Technical College.

"Particularly in these economic times where sometimes folks who don't have adequate insurance put off going to the doctor, put off getting that annual check up and this is sort of taking that place for a lot of folks."

For many, the expo provided inspiration toward a healthier lifestyle.

"America's Fitness Coach," Dave Hubbard, was the keynote speaker at the morning's kickoff breakfast.

He explained the importance of being active to prevent a long list of health concerns. He said most people can expect to live a long time thanks to advances in the medical industry, but in order to make that long life enjoyable people should prevent a lot of later suffering by changing their behavior now.

One of the healthiest overall changes a person can make is to lose those few extra pounds.

"For every extra pound of fat you have in your body you have 1 to 6 extra miles of capillaries for your blood to push through on a daily basis. That's a lot of stress on your body," Hubbard said during his presentation.

He said for many people sedentary jobs and lifestyles coupled with a diet of non-nutritious, processed food slowly create problems for the body.

"It's happened so slowly that we don't realize what is happening to our body," Hubbard said. "People don't even realize what is happening before it's too late."

Three area businesses were recognized for their efforts in keeping employees healthy. Awards were given based on a list of criteria including wellness, nutrition and fitness opportunities for employees.

The awards were given to Electronic Sales, Harris Products and Northeast Georgia Health System.

Dan Erwin works for Electronic Sales. His company had a Biggest Loser contest with a $2,000 cash prize for the top three losers.

"It's a lot of motivation," Erwin said. 

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