Marching Toward a Healthier Lifestyle

By: Andrea Rizkallah, Editorial Intern

nutrition month_final

By March, New Year’s resolution motivation may be dwindling down, which is why it’s the perfect time to celebrate National Nutrition Month and get back into a healthy lifestyle.

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to promote informed food choices and habitual exercise.

Here are some small changes you can make that will have a big impact on your health:

  • Pack on the go healthy snacks such as apple slices
  • Eat seafood twice a week
  • Visit a physician to get the best advice for you
  • Use an app or website to keep track of your progress

If you need an interactive approach to healthy eating, visit, and get to know the different food groups and other important information. It takes equal parts healthy eating and exercise to contribute to your overall health. Adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day and kids need at least 60 minutes.

Some people may think the only form of exercise is running, so they shy away from physical activity. But, there are many ways to fit exercise into your life.

  • Many gyms now offer fitness classes such as Zumba, kickboxing, water aerobics and Pilates.
  • There are at-home videos that incorporate group activities and upbeat music to keep you motivated.
  • Even walking around the block for half an hour after dinner makes a big difference to your health.
  • Eat carbs before your workout to give you energy
  • Eat carbs with protein after a workout for muscle recovery

There are a number of blogs and magazines that have recipes to walk you through eating healthy. EatRight has tips and information categorized by audience; Men, women, kids and seniors can find specialized information on topics like food, health and fitness.

university farmers market lA great way to make buying fruits and vegetables fun is to visit a farmer’s market! And we have one right here! The University of Maryland Medical Center hosts a farmer’s market on Tuesdays from May through November from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Get more information at

So, if you’re looking for some motivation to make a lifestyle change or to keep pursuing your New Year’s resolutions, this is the month to do it!

A Little Hero Recovers from Heart Surgery to Run Like Superman

Editor’s note:
For 2-year-old Thaddeous McKenzie, the Baltimore Running Festival was just a fun day when he got to run fast with a bunch of other kids. For his mother, Jennifer McAnany, and others who formed “Team Thaddeous,” it meant a lot more.  

By Jennifer McAnany

(as told to Amy Katz)

I felt my son grip my hand tightly as he wiggled in anticipation of the race. He was restless, but only because he was excited to run in the Kids Fun Run at the Baltimore Running Festival. I looked down at him, beaming with pride. I could think only about how truly blessed I am to have a healthy child who is living life to the fullest and being a normal 2-year-old.

When I was pregnant with my son Thaddeous, I wanted the best care possible for my baby. Because of complications, I was already considered a high-risk pregnancy, so I went to see Dr. Geoffrey Rosenthal at University of Maryland Medical Center. At 20 weeks, doctors found a heart defect and diagnosed Thaddeous with Tetralogy of Fallot. In this heart defect, it is difficult for the heart to pump oxygen properly, causing the child’s lips, tongue, and fingers to turn blue from lack of oxygen. The most common treatment for TOF is usually open heart surgery, and this surgery usually must occur within the first few months of life. It was scary for me because we wouldn’t even know how bad the defect was until he was born.

The day Thaddeous was born was very nerve-racking for me. He was born at UMMC – where they were prepared to perform open heart surgery on him immediately, if he needed it. As soon as he was born, the nurses came and assessed him. I was thrilled when I learned little Thaddeous was well enough to be able to go home from the hospital with me when I was released two days later. He was monitored every couple weeks and seemed to be doing okay.

About 11 weeks later, when we went in for a genetics appointment with Dr. Julie Kaplan at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center (part of the UM Medical System), she noticed that Thaddeous was looking a little blue, demonstrating one of his heart-defect symptoms. They had to immediately transport us from Upper Chesapeake hospital to the UM Medical Center in downtown Baltimore. It was a horrible weekend because his oxygen levels would drop every so often and he wasn’t scheduled to have open heart surgery until Monday morning. This is when we started calling him our little Superman because he pulled through his surgery and came out of it as our little hero.

Thaddeous McKenzie recovers after surgery. He's now a healthy 2-year-old.

Thaddeous McKenzie recovering after heart surgery at University of Maryland Children’s Hospital. 


The full-heart repair was a success and Thaddeous recovered fairly quickly. He was doing great. So when I heard about the Children’s Heart Program Running Team in the Baltimore Running Festival on Oct. 12, not only did I sign up to run – I signed up our little Superman. He even had his own bib number. And then several family members and friends signed up. As “Team Thaddeous,” we raised money for the program to be able to help other young patients and families.

Ready, Set, GO! The buzzer went off to signal the start.

Thaddeous ran as fast as he could, trying his hardest to keep up with the other kids and pulling me along with him. He was having a blast in his Superman shirt with his cape blowing in the wind, and I felt so glad he is still on the mend.

He will still have to have yearly check-ups for the rest of his life, but he is living life like a normal 2-year-old. He has his hiccups at times but what 2-year-old doesn’t? He walks, he plays, he kicks the ball and does everything he wants to do. The sky is the limit for him now.

As we crossed the finish line, still hand-in-hand, I once again realized how thankful I was.  He wouldn’t be able to be here running this race beside me for the Children’s Heart Program if it wasn’t for all of his doctors, nurses, and everyone who helped him get where he is today. I did the race for Thaddeous and to give back to the program that had helped us. It was like everything came full circle, and I can’t thank everyone at the University of Maryland Medical System enough.

Go to the Team Thaddeous page to see more photos of Thaddeous or to make a donation to sponsor his team’s fundraising effort.

Team Thaddeous

Team Thaddeous after running to raise money for the Children’s Heart Program and, below, with Dr. Rosenthal (third from left).


Group picture with Dr. Rosenthal


UMMS “Spring Into Good Health” Event Gets Shoppers Dancing in the Center Court at Mondawmin Mall

By Sharon Boston

UMMC Media Relations Manager

Each spring, the University of Medical System (UMMS) hosts “Spring Into Good Health,” a free event attended by hundreds of people who receive medical screenings (such as blood pressure and cholesterol), talk one-on-one with University of Maryland Medical System health professionals and pick up information on men’s and women’s health, child safety, nutrition and more.

This year, the UMMS Community Outreach and Advocacy Committee wanted to put a focus on fitness and hosted a dance party right in the middle of Mondawmin Mall!

Several guests commented that they didn’t realize that fitness could be so fun, and that they plan to try to exercise more and eat better, thanks to the information that they picked up at the UMMS event.

Take a look at the some of the line dancing that got people of all ages up and moving.

 “The dancing was really upbeat and lively, it really got people moving,” said Donna Jacobs, UMMS senior vice president for government relations. “Several people told us that they’d like to see even more fun physical activities next year.”

Five of the 12 hospitals in the University of Maryland Medical System took part in the event — the University of Maryland Medical Center, Maryland General Hospital, Kernan Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation Hospital, University Specialty Hospital and Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital. The event was also sponsored by Maryland Physicians Care, Total Health Care, Coppin State University School of Nursing and Radio One, Baltimore.

Race Bandit Turns Legit: Dozer the Dog Gets an Official Role in the 2012 Maryland Half Marathon

 A new 8-mile race-within-a-race called Dozer’s Dash has been added to the 2012 Maryland Half Marathon in honor of Dozer the Dog, a Goldendoodle who made national news after accidentally joining the runners at mile five in the 2011 Maryland Half Marathon.

Dozer passed the finish line wet and muddy during his first race, but he was sporting a newly groomed ‘do when he came to the Medical Center Thursday, Dec. 8, to kick off registration for the fourth annual Maryland Half Marathon. The race benefits the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center.

The actual race will be Sunday, May 6, 2012, in the Howard County community of Maple Lawn. Maple Lawn is located in the Fulton area of Howard County.

“We’re looking forward to returning to Maple Lawn, which proved to be a challenging, fun course for runners. This half marathon is designed for those who enjoy running with a purpose, since 100 percent of the net proceeds benefit the Greenebaum Cancer Center,” says Michael Greenebaum, race co-chairman. ”When we started the race in 2009, a goal was set to raise $1 million for the cancer center by 2012. To date, the event has raised close to $750,000, and we hope to realize this goal next year.”

“By introducing Dozer’s Dash and revamping our Marlene’s Mission fundraising program to allow for expanded participation, we are offering new twists that keep the race fresh for runners,” said Jon Sevel, Maryland Half Marathon co-chairman.

Dozer’s Dash will begin at the five-mile mark, where Dozer made his now-famous entrance into the race in 2011. Male and female runners having the lowest times in this leg of the half marathon will be awarded medals of honor and named Top Dog of Dozer’s Dash.

Dogs will be permitted to join Dozer at the race that morning to cheer on runners along the course – as long as they’re accompanied by an owner and on a leash. For the safety of the animals and those running in the race, however, dogs will NOT be allowed to run in the 2012 Marathon Half Marathon or Dozer’s Dash. Not even Dozer himself.

Also new this year is a more-inclusive “Marlene’s Mission” fundraising program, named in honor of Marlene Greenebaum, a two-time cancer survivor and the inspiration behind the race. Runners who raise $2,500 or more for the Greenebaum Cancer Center will be recognized as part of this elite fundraising program and receive incentives as a special thank you for their efforts.

Ever notice the race has moved to different locations in Maryland? There’s a method behind that. At the 2012 race, the County Cup will again be presented to the county executive representing the ‘home’ county of the first Maryland resident to cross the finish line. Adam Callaway, the 2011 top finisher who ran the course in 1:18:51, helped Baltimore County reclaim the Cup from Harford County in 2011. Baltimore County was the inaugural recipient in 2009.

“The Maryland Half Marathon is one of the state’s premier races, and we are honored that it will return to Howard County in May 2012. The race brought runners from around the state and elsewhere to our beautiful county, and allowed us the opportunity to showcase the Maple Lawn community. We are pleased to be part of this effort to support the great work being done at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center to fight cancer,” says Ken Ulman, the Howard County executive.

This year’s event also will feature a Kids Fun Run and Kids Zone as well as live music. The half marathon starts at 8 a.m., and the Kids Fun Run at 8:30 a.m. Registration is $75 for the half-marathon and $15 for the Kids Run. The Kids Zone is free.

Race Co-Chairmen Michael Greenebaum and Jon Sevel started the Maryland Half Marathon in 2009, combining their passion for running with a desire to help the cancer center, which is named for Greenebaum’s parents, Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum.

Kevin J. Cullen, M.D., the cancer center’s director, says, “We’re extremely grateful to all the runners and volunteers who make the Maryland Half Marathon so successful each year. The money that they have raised has been crucial to helping us provide outstanding care for our patients and to continue our research into new ways to fight cancer. We can’t thank them enough for their generous support.”

A number of cancer survivors and members of their families take part in the half marathon each year, along with doctors, nurses and other members of the cancer center staff. Cancer survivors give medals to all those who finish the race.

The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center, is ranked in the nation’s top 25 cancer centers by U.S. News and World Report. The cancer center offers a multidisciplinary approach to treating all types of cancer and has an active cancer research program.

For more information:

Maryland Half Marathon

Greenebaum Cancer Center

Dozer the Dog’s Facebook page

Dozer’s Fundraising page

Mitral Valve Repair Lets Marathon Runner Boogie at Son’s Wedding

By Nick Papas

I had just completed the 2011 Pittsburgh Marathon. It was not my best time. There was no personal record that day. It was a day marked by a continued struggle with a chronic heel injury.  But there was something more serious brewing in my body that day. It was a particularly strong flare-up of my mitral valve pain. I was so familiar with the pain. It had been diagnosed and studied throughout my life. I had mitral valve prolapse. 

 So, I brushed off the chest pain as I slogged through the marathon and finished.

Then a couple hours later, as the marathon and half-marathon runners of our family celebrated with extended family and supportive friends, I shared my personal marathon experience with my soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Beth Ann. My tale included the throw-away detail about my old familiar chest pains. No big deal. Or so I thought.

 Beth Ann, a medical student, was not as flippant as I was about the little detail of chest pain.  She pulled out her stethoscope and diagnosed me on the spot as having mitral valve regurgitation. She strongly suggested that I see my PCP. I was stubborn and a bit incredulous. I didn’t rush.

 Eventually my heart acted up in such new and painful ways that I was compelled to go to my doctor. This set into motion the chain of events that lead me to Dr. James Gammie at UMMC.

An initial link in this chain was me doing my homework. I read the scientific papers. I consulted with knowledgeable, trusted people and friends.

 I had to make my decision: Was I, a man who loves to be active by running and biking, going to be happy taking drugs? Would I be satisfied watching my body get weaker and weaker while my heart became more and more sick?

 Ultimately, the decision was a no-brainer.

 I took action right away, partially because I concluded that it was the right thing to do and partially because my son’s wedding was just around the corner. I wanted to be healed enough to dance at my son’s wedding.

My surgery was performed at UMMC on September 6, 2011. Noah and Beth Ann were married October 8, 2011! I am happy to say I danced! I danced quite a bit! My wife, Patty (in the photo with me), and I had a great time.

 I am grateful not only to be alive but to be living. I am optimistic that with my newly repaired, healthy heart I will be able to enjoy the coming years with my family and to live these years actively. 

In the future, look for me in the 2012 Baltimore Half or Full Marathon. I’m the self-proclaimed, 52-year old, poster “child” of UMMC Mitral Valve Repairs!



Prevention, Screening and Lifestyle Changes Could Reverse the Alarming Increase in Diabetes


By Catherine Brown, MS, RD, CDE
Diabetes Education Coordinator

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month.  The incidence of diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate worldwide.  In theUnited States, 26 million people have diabetes.  That’s 8.3 percent of us. Chances are you know someone with diabetes.  Additionally, an estimated 79 million people have pre-diabetes, which means the sugar level in their blood is higher than normal and could lead to diabetes. 

Here are a few more statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that paint an even clearer picture of this enormous public health problem: 

  • Every 17 seconds, someone is diagnosed with diabetes.
  • Diabetes kills more people each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.
  • By 2050, according to some estimates, as many as 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes.

Symptoms of diabetes include extreme fatigue, blurry vision, frequent urination and increased thirst.  However, many people don’t experience any symptoms, or don’t have symptoms until their blood sugar levels are much too high.  To help determine if you are at risk for developing diabetes, take the risk test at Discuss your results with your doctor.

The good news is that a major research study, called the Diabetes Prevention Program, showed that the more common type 2 diabetes can be prevented with lifestyle changes. Performing 150 minutes of exercise per week and reducing calorie and fat intake to lose 7 percent body weight was effective in preventing or delaying diabetes.  To learn more about this study, visit

Diabetes is a chronic and costly disease that can lead to kidney disease, eye damage, nerve damage and heart disease if not well controlled.  People with diabetes need to adopt several behaviors, such as staying active, eating a healthy diet and monitoring their blood sugar.  Usually, they need a team of professionals to help manage the condition. The University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology offers physicians, nurse practitioners, diabetes educators, dietitians, pharmacists, podiatrists and psychiatrists to assist patients. It provides diabetes education classes to help patients better manage their diabetes.

 To learn more about our services or to make an appointment, please call 410-328-6584 or visit For more information about diabetes, check out the American Diabetes Association’s website at

All About Triglycerides: An Interview with Dr. Michael Miller

Editor’s Note: A scientific statement published today in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association found that dietary and lifestyle changes significantly reduce elevated triglycerides, a type of blood fat, which is associated with heart, blood vessel and other diseases.

So what exactly are triglycerides, how significant are this statement’s findings and what specific steps can people take to reduce their triglyceride level and improve their heart health? Dr. Michael Miller, chair of the AHA’s statement committee, a cardiologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center and director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, answers those questions and more to help you improve your triglycerides IQ.

As compared to lowering cholesterol, it sounds like lifestyle changes can go a long way toward lowering cholesterol levels.

Yes, lifestyle changes may only lower cholesterol 5-10% while they can lower triglycerides 30-50% and higher in some cases!

How significant are these findings, and why should people care and take action?

This is the most comprehensive statement on triglycerides and puts into perspective the important role that they serve as a barometer of our “metabolic” health. Optimal triglycerides suggest that fat is being effectively broken down whereas high triglycerides indicate abnormal processing, which may lead to excess fat in other tissues.

For example, excess fat in muscle may lead to insulin resistance and diabetes, excess fat in the liver may produce a fatty liver and excess fat in the belly may produce inflammation and increase risk of heart disease. In fact, a high triglyceride level may predict development of diabetes years down the road. Therefore, it is important that people pay close attention to their triglyceride level, especially because it can often be effectively treated with lifestyle measures.

What are triglycerides, and why are they important?

Triglycerides are simply our fats and high triglyceride levels in our blood tell us that our body is carrying around too much unhealthy fat. Too much unhealthy fat in our blood is associated with an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Talk about the work your committee did, as well as the key findings.

Our committee of 15 men and women physician scientists evaluated more than 500  studies involving triglycerides during the past 30 years. In summary, our findings indicate that triglycerides are an important marker for heart disease risk.  High triglycerides may raise the risk of heart disease 20-50% and double the risk if accompanied by high levels of LDL (the bad cholesterol). High triglycerides are also associated with increased belly fat, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and low levels of HDL (the good cholesterol).

How are and how often should triglycerides be measured?

Screening levels can now be obtained in a non-fasting state and depending on the results will determine whether additional testing should be performed. For example, a normal non-fasting test (less than 200) may not need additional testing for a period of 1 year or greater, whereas high levels (200 or greater) should have a fasting test within a reasonable period such as 2-4 weeks.

It sounds like triglycerides are somewhat similar to cholesterol. Can you talk about that, as well as why the public is so familiar with lowering its cholesterol levels but not its triglycerides?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance whereas triglyceride is fat, but they are both connected by the lipoproteins that transport them to and from various body tissues. For example, triglyceride-rich lipoproteins include chylomicrons (that transfer triglycerides after a fatty meal) and VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) that transfers triglycerides from the liver. The triglycerides are broken down and stored in fat or used as an energy source in muscle. Cholesterol-rich lipoproteins include LDL and HDL and they transfer cholesterol to or from body tissues.

What are the current guidelines for triglyceride levels, and what is the optimal level?

In addition to the previous guidelines that define desirable levels (less than 150), borderline-high (150-199), high (200-499) and very high (500 and greater), we have now added the optimal level of less than 100.

What can people do to lower their triglyceride levels?

High triglycerides are very responsive to lifestyle changes. They include reducing weight if overweight by decreasing the total number of calories eaten daily, reducing simple sugars, especially fructose, decreasing saturated fat and eliminating trans fats. Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, will also lower triglyceride levels.

Are there specific foods people should eat more of and avoid, and forms of exercise that are better than others?

Omega-3 fats that contain EPA and/or DHA such as found in fatty fish can lower triglycerides. Decreasing simple carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats are also recommended. Aerobic activity is also effective in reducing elevated triglycerides.


What to Eat Before You Exercise

By Shanti Lewis, RD, CNSD, CSP
UMMC Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist

Editor’s Note: Shanti Lewis, RD, CNSD, CSP, wrote this post on January 13, 2011 for Exercists, the Baltimore Sun’s health and fitness blog. This post, which has been edited, is reprinted with the permission of the Baltimore Sun.

It’s time to exercise and maintain your New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you’ve just finished a long day at the office or are fitting in a lunch workout. You are starving and have no idea what to eat before working out or if you should eat at all.

Personal trainers, fitness magazines and websites have different opinions on what is the best pre-workout meal. Your personal trainer may suggest eating protein to build muscle, but your marathon runner friend may tell you to eat carbohydrates for energy. Other people think that working out on an empty stomach is the best way to burn fat stores; however, this approach will only be successful if you are working out at a low intensity, such as walking, for less than 30 minutes. If you are planning to perform high-intensity aerobic activity or weight train for more than 45 minutes, you may consider eating a high carbohydrate, low-fat, low-fiber meal with some protein.

All these opinions can be confusing, so I gathered some tips from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association and Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

Tips for Pre-Workout Meals/Snacks

  • Choose high carbohydrate, low fiber foods, such as wheat bread, pitas, brown rice, pasta, yams or baked potato to facilitate emptying, prevent gastric distress and maximize glycogen stores.
  • Consume only a moderate amount of protein.
  • Avoid high-fat foods, such as regular cheese, fried foods, ice cream or hamburgers/hot dogs.
  • Aim for 200-300 calories for a pre-workout meal.
  • Allow for adequate digestion before starting to exercise.
  • Consume adequate amount of fluid (about 2 cups) approximately 2 hours before exercise.
  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet throughout the day.
  • Aim for wholesome foods as opposed to relying on bars and nutritional shakes.

Ideas for Pre-Workout Meals/Snacks

  • 1 cup of unsweetened cereal with low fat milk
  • Low fat yogurt with a small piece of fruit
  • Banana with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • Raw vegetables with 2 tablespoons of hummus
  • Chicken or vegetable noodle soup
  • 1/2-bagel with any nut butter
  • 1 cup of old fashioned oatmeal with low fat milk, cinnamon and sweetener
  • 1/2-turkey sandwich with mustard, lettuce, and tomato

Remember that age, race, gastric emptying, allergies and intolerances, genetic factors and type of activity contribute to how well a pre-workout meal is tolerated. It may be beneficial to try a few different pre-workout snacks/meals to find out what works best for you. For more information on sports nutrition, visit the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness practice group of the American Dietetic Association’s Web site.

Other Posts by Shanti Lewis:

UMMC Hosts First-Ever “Ventilator 5K” Race to Support the American Respiratory Care Foundation (ARCF)

This video showcases footage from the University of Maryland Medical Center’s first-ever “Ventilator 5K” race. The event included teams of respiratory therapists from local Maryland hospitals pushing decorated ventilators — which were donated by the vendors and were demos and/or inoperable — around a track at the University of Maryland Southern Management Corporation Campus Center in Baltimore.

The race was organized by UMMC employees Jeff Ford and Maria Madden as a fundraiser to help support ongoing community awareness efforts of the American Respiratory Care Foundation (ARCF). It included four teams of respiratory therapists, for a total of 26 participants and four referees for each team. Together, these teams raised $1,800 for the ARCF. After the race, prizes were awarded to the participating teams for first, second and third place as well as “Best Dressed” ventilator.

Exercise Tips for Heart Health

By Michael Miller, M.D.
Director, UM Center for Preventive Cardiology

Most of us can improve our heart health simply with moderate exercise. For example, 30 minutes of brisk walking (3-4 miles per hour) 6 days a week has been shown to reduce the risk of a heart attack by about 30%.  A great and inexpensive gizmo to help stay motivated is a pedometer (cost is about $20;   Simply adding 2,000 steps a day, which is equal to walking 1 mile, can result in a 10-pound weight loss over a year.

Do activities that you enjoy!  For example, one of the most overlooked yet beneficial activities for your heart is dancing.  Listening to music that makes you feel good causes the additional release of heart protective endorphins.  You don’t need to worry about weather conditions or even having a partner. Just turn on the radio or your iPod and dance the night away.  Actually …  just dance part of the night away, because a good night’s sleep is also good for your heart!