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Gambit Weekly's 9th Annual Wellness Expo™ Brings Local Health and Wellness Resources Together under One Roof

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In a time when preventative medicine has become as vital a part of the medical world as providing quality care when health problems do occur, Gambit Weekly's 9th Annual Wellness Expo provides a valuable soup-to-nuts look at many of the local resources available in the lifelong effort to achieve, maintain and regain optimum health.

This year's event, which takes place Saturday, June 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Lakeside Shopping Center, brings together more than 30 exhibitors representing health areas ranging from chiropractics and hypnotherapy to senior care facilities and veterinary care. Exhibitors will offer demonstrations, information, screenings and promotional giveaways. With a "wellness passport," attendees who visit and get their passports stamped by six booths can register for a variety of prizes including a $1,000 gift certificate, a complimentary at-home teeth-whitening package, a micro-dermabrasion treatment and other gifts. For the second year in a row, the presenting sponsor for the expo is East Jefferson General Hospital (EJGH), an institution that, like the event itself, addresses wellness with a comprehensive approach.

"At EJGH, we offer immediate medical care, preventative care and rehabilitative care," says John Sartori, director of marketing at the hospital. "We're introducing new technology and trying to get the best care available for the area. Our goal is to keep you healthy to avoid preventable medical problems."

Opened in 1971, East Jefferson is a publicly owned hospital that has almost doubled in size over its 36 years of operation. With 450 beds, it is one of the largest hospitals in the metro area and one of the largest employers in Jefferson Parish. In 2002, the American Nurses Credentialing Center named EJGH Louisiana's first magnet hospital, an elite honor reserved for hospitals meeting a superior code of excellence and one the hospital was awarded again last year.

The scope of East Jefferson's care includes a broad range of inpatient and outpatient services — from diagnostics to surgery and rehab, a regional cancer center, a sleep lab, a breast care center and a vast 38,000-square-foot wellness center for members 18 and older.

The East Jefferson Wellness Center, staffed with fitness instructors, certified personal trainers, clinical exercise physiologists and others, stays up to date with the latest in disease management, cardiovascular exercise, strength training, personal training and aquatics. It also offers specialty classes such as yoga, Tai Chi, and line dancing; educational weight-control classes; and pampering perks such as massage by licensed therapists.

The hospital is at the forefront with state-of-the-art technologies as well. New additions to the facility include a cath lab for cardiac and vascular health, which opens this month, and a 64 Slice CT scanner that takes 2,000 to 4,000 images of the heart in just four heartbeats and builds a 3-D model of the heart and cardiovascular system so radiologists can examine the muscle in greater depth when looking for heart disease.

The hospital's equally impressive S-Generation DaVinci Surgical System uses robotic arms to perform minimally invasive procedures such as prostate surgeries and hysterectomies.

East Jefferson will have booths at the expo representing its Wellness Center, Adult Day Health Center, Elder Advantage group, food and nutrition services, diabetes management and women and child services. It also will offer blood pressure, body fat and cholesterol screenings and will host a cooking demonstration by Chef Jason LaMotte of Ardoise restaurant in Metairie.

For seniors who are still independent enough to live at home but are in need of medical or personal supervision during the day, The John J. Hainkel Adult Day Health Care Center, which opened last year and is licensed through the state Department of Health and Hospitals, offers an individualized day program designed to help bridge the gap between independent living and 24-hour assisted living. Located Uptown, the center provides numerous services that not only help improve a patient's quality of life, but also alleviate the stress on caregivers. Those services include transportation, health care, nutritional counseling, dietition-approved meals and recreational activities.

"The main thing that families find attractive about Adult Day Health Care is that they're not ready to make that decision to place a family member in a 24-hour setting," says the center's program director, Syril Schultz, who explains that since Katrina, many families are dealing with more personal and business-related stresses than before the storm. "When they come to us, there's a relief that this is an option so that they can still take care of their parent, but know that someone is watching them during the day while they're at work. It's doable for them, looking at the cost and the emotions."

With much of the baby boom generation now over age 50, the rapidly developing fields of anti-aging medicine and cosmetic surgery offer more options than ever before. Multiple practices specializing in laser therapies, on both the Northshore and south shore, will be on hand to educate the public on how lasers can be used for a variety of purposes, including cosmetic procedures and to help with health issues like weight reduction and smoking cessation.

Dr. Paul Nathan, of the eponymous Nathan Laser Institute in Lacombe, uses lasers for fat removal, varicose and spider vein treatment and removal, Restless Leg Syndrome, hair removal, cellulite reduction, facial rejuvenation and more. Laser Lipo, the latest advancement in liposuction technology and one of the two most popular procedures performed at the institute, is less invasive than traditional forms of liposuction and, to date, the Institute is the only practice in Louisiana to offer it. The technique uses a small, high-powered laser to precisely sculpt the area being treated producing a tightening effect on the overlying skin and reducing the need for surgically removing excess skin.

"There are numerous advantages to Laser Lipo compared to traditional liposuction," says Nathan, a cardiovascular specialist with additional training in phlebology, laser surgery and aesthetics, and a special interest in nonsurgical and minimally invasive treatments of vascular diseases. "Laser Lipo has less trauma, less down time, fewer side effects and minimum swelling."

The Institute also sells Obagi skin-care products and offers cosmetic treatments like Botox, Restylane and Aluma skin tightening.

At Barataria Medical Center Laser Skincare, the latest addition to Barataria Medical Center located in Marrero, Dr. B. Ngoc Pham likewise offers a variety of laser treatments — IPL Laser hair removal, photo skin rejuvenation, laser spider vein treatments and nonablative skin resurfacing — and cosmetic treatments like microdermabrasion and IPL acne treatments — all under one roof. A board-certified family physician specializing in laser skin care, Pham supervises all procedures and uses the latest technology for the best results. Unlike some lasers that are adjusted for various uses with a knob, the laser system used at Barataria has five different hand pieces, each designed for a specific use. It also has a patented cooling system that's more tolerable, quicker and more effective than those on older models. The center is staffed by trained, licensed and certified aestheticians, nurses and technicians, all of whom share the common goal of assisting clients to look their personal best.

"As a physician, I definitely promote healthy skin, and it's not only about appearance," says Pham. "It's also about how you take care of your skin from within as far as diet, exercise and health maintenance."

Taking care of your heart by living a "heart-healthy lifestyle" is essential to your overall health maintenance. With six locations and a team of 12 cardiologists, Tchefuncte Cardiovascular Associates (TCA) offers general cardiology, preventive health care, athletic screenings, varicose vein treatment, noninvasive CT angiograms and more.

The practice's specialty is providing personalized care in both unrecognized and underserved niches of cardiovascular care. TCA is the only private practice in St. Tammany to offer noninvasive CT angiograms and was the first cardiology practice on the Northshore to provide venous therapies for spider veins and varicose veins.

"Venous disease is not just a vanity issue," says the practice's general manager, Janet Jones. "It's a disease that can lead to complications later in life if left untreated. Now there are nonsurgical methods to treat venous disease that can be performed in an office setting, including laser therapy and sclerotherapy."

Screenings the practice offers athletes include cardiac risk assessment, limited echocardiogram, maximum stress test, body composition and lipid profile with a physician consultation. At the expo, members of the Tchefuncte Cardiovascular staff will provide venous screenings and educational materials.

Sleep deprivation can take a serious toll on both an individual's physical and mental well-being, while healthy sleep habits can keep us balanced, centered and even lighter on our feet. (Studies suggest 8 to 10 hours of quality sleep at night help keep your metabolism in sync.) The mission at Back To Mattress, a back and wellness lifestyle store carrying Tempurpedic mattresses, Human Touch massage chairs and related accessories, is to help every customer get the most restful and comfortable sleep possible. Conventional mattresses exert counter pressure that can contort the body, restrict blood flow and cause pressure points. Tempurpedic mattresses, made of a material first developed in the labs at NASA, create a custom fit for the body, helping to relieve the pressure that causes stiffness, poor sleep and pain. Tempurpedic's philosophy is that a mattress need not be firm or soft; it can be both.

Visitors to the Back to Mattress booth can test both a Tempurpedic mattress and a Human Touch massage chair, which uses robotic rollers designed to emulate the hands of professional massage therapists. The massage chairs combine kneading, percussion and rolling techniques that work deep into the muscles to relieve stress, pain and anxiety.

Vendors helping to educate attendees about the importance of caring for their muscular skeletal health will include trained and certified chiropractors and rehabilitation specialists. Dr. Mark Kruse of Family Chiropractic Center provides clients with general chiropractic health care as well as chiropractic sports medicine and nutritional and exercise therapies. Kruse will offer informational brochures about each of those topics — and other areas treated by chiropractics such as headaches — and will offer free samples of Biofreeze, a topical cooling analgesic used to relieve joint and muscle pain.

On the journey to wellness, helping others can be every bit as important as helping one's self, and the expo will offer a number of ways that attendees can make a difference in others' lives. Benchmark Research, a Texas-based company with an office in New Orleans, conducts research studies on new and current medications using volunteer patients. Study participation includes free study-related office visits, lab work and medicines, and volunteers are paid for their participation. Benchmark contracts with local physicians to conduct clinical trials, is committed to providing superior service and strives to raise the standard in clinical research. Current studies include smoking cessation, a pediatric flu vaccine, toenail fungus treatments and birth control. This month, Benchmark begins a new study testing the efficacy of a nicotine vaccine. At the expo, Benchmark will give away promotional items like pens, insulated drink holders and magnets, and will raffle a Nintendo Wii.

With prescription costs at an all-time high, countless Americans need help covering the costs of their medicines. The Partnership For Prescription Assistance — which operates on the premise that people know prescription programs exist but don't know how to access them — helps more than 3.5 million Americans find and apply for those programs. Its mission is to increase awareness of the many programs out there and to boost enrollment in them.

The Partnership's Web site serves as a single point of access to more than 475 public and private patient-assistance programs, including more than 180 offered by pharmaceutical companies. Patients, caregivers and physicians can research programs through the Partnership, which also provides information through a toll-free number.

Choices, comfort and peace of mind are central to the Modern Hospice Movement and to River Region Hospice, a facility providing end-of-life care to patients and their families in the New Orleans area and River Parishes. River Region offers hospice care, which includes weekly visits by a registered nurse, in a variety of settings: the home, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, group homes and inpatient environments.

Its 14-bed hospice house, the only hospice house in Louisiana, offers a home-like atmosphere for patients who meet the in-patient criteria. It also offers a "residential care" option for other patients who would benefit from inpatient care and can pay for it. River Region Hospice House allows unlimited visitation and provides comfortable spaces where families can prepare and share meals, celebrate, worship and even stay overnight. It employs a nursing staff specifically trained in hospice and palliative care and a 24-hour on-call staff of social workers, physicians and chaplains. Hospice Bereavement Counselors are available for grief counseling and bereavement support for 13 months after the patient's death.

"There aren't a lot of options for senior living and housing or facilities available with a homelike atmosphere and around-the-clock nursing services," says Cinnamon Tucker, River Region's assistant director of nursing. "We provide a valuable, secure alternative for seniors and adults requiring a higher level of care."

Exercise, another path on the multi-faceted journey to well-rounded health, will be covered by businesses from both the New Orleans and Metairie areas. Metro Area Jazzercise, a group of 10 local Jazzercise franchise owners, offers classes in small neighborhood venues and large Jazzercise Fitness Centers all over the New Orleans area: Kenner, River Ridge, Metairie, Uptown and the West Bank. Started in the 1970s and popularized in the 1980s, Jazzercise combines cardio, stretch and strength-training moves choreographed to today's pop music and is designed to be fun and easy to follow for students at a variety of fitness levels. Metro Area Jazzercise also offers other class formats such as "Personal Touch" strength training; circuit training; Express, a 45-minute Jazzercise workout; and Jazzercise Lite, a lighter, low-impact version of the original. Low-cost childcare is available at many facilities.

The Metro Area Jazzercise booth will be giving two Jazzercise demonstrations at the expo's Center Stage, raffling gift certificates and giving away coupons for classes. It also will provide information about a variety of topics, including class formats, incentives, becoming a Jazzercise franchise owner and the International Jazzercise Convention that will be held in New Orleans next summer.

Current incentives include the "Make The Connection" referral program, which awards a makeup bag to those who get a friend to register, and the "Splash Into Summer" program in which students who attend 30 classes between June 1 and July 31 win a beach towel. Additional information is available at www.jazzercise.com.

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