Wouldn’t it be nice if instead of toys and clothing this holiday season you could give your family and friends the gift of health and wellness? If you could wave a magic wand and rid the planet of heart disease, cancer and diabetes?
It may be wishful thinking, but it’s at the core of what several of the borough’s health and fitness leaders said they would give Island residents if they possessed some of Santa’s magic.
Both Anthony Ferreri, president and CEO of Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH), and Dr. Joseph McGinn, a cardiothoracic surgeon and medical director of The Heart Institute, wished Islanders would take better care of themselves.
"At the SIEDC health conference, Dr. Cynara Coomer, head of our Comprehensive Breast Center, said something I hadn’t heard before," Ferreri said. "Staten Islanders tend to go to their doctors later rather than sooner and, unfortunately, certain diseases are caught when the disease has progressed."
Dr. McGinn knows it is a pipe dream to believe there won’t be a need for physicians like him in the near future, but hopes people will heed his advice for taking better care of themselves, especially during the holiday season.
"Stop overeating," he warned. "Heavy meals are associated with precipitating heart attacks, and people around the holidays tend not to pay attention to the amount of food they’re eating. Another risk is snow and snow removal," Dr. McGinn said. "We all think we’re in great shape, but as we reach middle age, we can have underlying heart disease and not know it."
Dr. Theodore Strange, Richmond County Medical Society past president and vice president for medical operations at SIUH South, wishes Islanders access to the best care they can get and hopes they’ll be more mindful of prevention.
"It will help them save money, and the [healthcare] system save money, because they are not going to the emergency room and will not need more specialized care if they can catch it early," he said.
Over at Richmond University Medical Center, senior vice president Richard Salhany spoke of a hope that Staten Islanders will look out for their neighbors.
"Especially when the weather starts to change, we need to be mindful of the elderly who live alone," he said. "There are people on the Island who don’t have heat in their home, people who may need food, help shoveling themselves out, getting groceries or taking them to the hospital."
When it comes to fitness, Tony Books Avilez, co-founder of the Staten Island Slim Down, is wishing borough residents will get active.
"The most prevalent things I hear are people don’t have the time and don’t know how to get started. Experiment," said Avilez, who also runs Staten Island Boot Camp. "One of the things we really prided ourselves on with the Slim Down was that it got people to experiment with different [exercise] modalities. Some people found Zumba or yoga or t’ai chi. That’s the most important thing, they found something."
Finally, Jeannine Marotta, regional vice president for the Staten Island American Cancer Society, wants to see Islanders make choices that will lead to a healthier lifestyle.
"This," she said, will help Islanders to stay healthy and to celebrate many more birthdays ... and holidays, too!"
Andrea Boyarsky is the Health editor for the Advance. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.