Health and fitness expo draws in crowd

SAN BENITO — Richard Wheeler was enjoying his visit to the health expo until he stopped at the city’s Community Health table.

“It was good until I got my blood pressure checked,” said Wheeler, 67, with a chuckle.

His blood pressure was actually only slightly high, but nevertheless it concerned him.

The “I’m Losin’ It! Health and Fitness Expo” yesterday attracted a steady stream of people who took health seriously, which was the goal of the event. They learned about nutrition, weight loss, exercise and much more from the 17 vendors who set up tables.

The event also included a 5K Fun Run and Bike Tour.

“There are a lot of good people here, a lot of great people,” said Lionel Betancourt, president of the Chamber of Commerce, which organized the event.

The expo committee spent long hours publicizing the event through various media and rounding up vendors, said Cecilia Espinoza, head of the expo committee. They sent invitations to numerous businesses. Many didn’t answer back, but 21 signed up. Of those, 17 came to the event.

“It was a positive response,” she said. “It was during the holidays. It’s for community awareness. It’s important for people to know what options are available for them. You can stay active and become healthy.”

Visitors seeking to improve their health passed tables where they spoke one-on-one to vendors and picked up printed material.

They stopped at the Community Health table where Letty Gomez, a Community Health worker, and volunteer Nubia Gomez (no relation) checked blood pressure and body mass index. Rodeo Dental and Orthodontics talked to visitors about oral hygiene. Dawn Rodriguez, a registered nurse from Valley Baptist Medical Center, gave consultations about better nutrition.

Noemi Ramirez listened attentively as Rodriguez, program director for the Medical and Surgical Weight Loss Program at VBMC, told her about eating egg whites. People who eat both the yolk and the egg white will acquire more nutrients. True, the egg yolk stores the cholesterol and fat, but it also contains choline, which is good for memory. For those concerned about the cholesterol, the Harvard School of Public Health says the cholesterol in eggs has little effect on blood cholesterol.

Ramirez was surprised to learn she could drink more water through a straw than directly from a glass.

“She’s also telling me about servings,” Ramirez said.

Rodriguez said people need to take a closer look at container labels for serving information.

“They always need to turn it over and see how many servings are in the container,” she said.

The label will also tell them the size of one serving. Rodriguez said they may have thought they were eating 110 calories when their serving was actually 220 calories.

Many people were so concerned about their health they drove from Harlingen. Ramona Bauer, 60, was one of them.

“I got some information on cholesterol,” she said. “It’s hereditary. I knew that.”

She’s already begun exercising more. In just a few minutes, she’d join a zumba session in the building.

Rosie Zapata and her husband Juan, co-owners of Peaceful Warrior Martial Arts, spoke to people about exercise through karate.

“People want something else besides working out,” said Rosie Zapata, who has done karate for 10 years and has a black belt.

“It keeps me active,” she said with a smile.

Betancourt said one big health issue in San Benito is the number of people who are overweight. The city and the community need to make a concerted effort to lower that number, he said.

“We’re trying to rally and get the community behind the effort,” Betancourt said. “In Cameron County, 80 percent of the people are overweight.”

Meanwhile, back at the Community Health table, Wheeler and his wife Cindi were talking about their results. Cindi Wheeler was a little concerned about hers.

“I need to get into a healthier zone,” she said.

A healthier zone. The statement seemed to capture perfectly the purpose of the expo and the intent of those who came.

They sought healthier foods, better preparation and portion control. They checked their blood pressure and learned how they could bring it within the normal range if it was too high.

Exercise, of course, is an integral part of good health, keeping a strong heart, body and soul.