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2/22/2016 Community Hospital

Annual Symposium focuses on Heart Disease Prevention, Diabetes

Mary Dagen, MD
Need some motivation to begin a personal journey toward proper health with good nutrition and adequate exercise? Attend this year’s free Community Healthcare System Cardiovascular Research symposium. Speakers Mary Dagen, MD and Debi Pillarella, MEd, CMES will discuss Lifestyle Changes for a Healthier Tomorrow from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16 at the Center for Visual and Performing Arts, 1040 Ridge Road in Munster.

Dr. Mary Dagen is on a mission - a mission to change unhealthy behaviors that have led her county in Michigan to reflect some of the state’s poorest health rankings. As a family physician and obesity medicine specialist with an emphasis in sports medicine, she deals with weight loss issues on a daily basis with patients. She passionately believes in the “One in 21” goal of getting Muskegon County to be the healthiest county in Michigan by 2021, and is spreading the word to other communities to inspire them to a healthier lifestyle, too.

“We are trying to drive different ideas in Muskegon to make the changes we need,” Dagen said. “We can use what we’ve learned from that experience and inspire other communities as well.”

Along with diet and nutrition, Dagen motivates her patients to be physically active. She practices what she preaches - she also is an avid runner. After graduating from Mona Shores in 1998, where she was a track and cross-country athlete, Dagen received a degree in biology at Michigan Tech University before attending medical school at the American University of the Caribbean on St. Martin. She did her residency in Traverse City in family medicine and currently practices in Grand Haven, Michigan.

“Doing something is better than nothing,” Dagen said. “Start by walking down to the end of the street and back. Do it twice the second day. Go a little further each day.”

She will be discussing ways to get motivated to make the lifestyle changes necessary to live with diabetes.

Pillarella serves as the education/fitness program manager of Community Hospital Fitness Pointe, the medically-based fitness facility in Munster that helps individuals achieve life-long health and fitness. As education/fitness program manager, Pillarella oversees a staff of more than 50 fitness professionals and helps to develop fitness, wellness and health education programs in aquatic fitness, personal training, group exercise, Pilates and yoga.

Her devotion to health and fitness stems, in part, from her own, personal experience and victory over a cardiovascular defect and stroke. In 1994, Pillarella had just completed her master’s degree, had newfound success in her career (created videos, traveled for presentations, wrote a book) and was "feeling on top of the world," when she began to experience numbness and tingling in her arms and hands. Like many women, she thought it would just go away. But it didn’t just go away, and shortly after, a hole was diagnosed in the wall of her heart. She had open-heart surgery. And, in 2000, Pillarella suffered another health setback - a stroke. With sheer determination and a strong commitment to fitness, she was able to eventually overcome and recover from heart disease and brain surgery.

She will share her extensive knowledge about exercise and fitness and how lifestyle changes can help to reduce the risk of heart disease or slow its progression.

The heart health symposium, sponsored by the Cardiovascular Research program of Community Healthcare System, is free of charge. Light refreshments will be served. Registration is necessary and will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis at 219-836-3477 or 1-866-836-3477.
219-836-4582 Elise Sims, specialist Media/Public Relations Marketing & Corporate Communications esims@comhs.org