Health and Wellness

What's Your Number?

By Carolyn Muller
Community Health Improvement Specialist

When was the last time you had your blood pressure checked? High blood pressure is a common but dangerous condition. It means that that the pressure of the blood in your blood vessels is higher than it should be. Since February is National Heart Health Month, what a great opportunity to have your blood pressure checked, and if it's too high, make better control your goal.
About one of three U.S. adults, about 70 million people, have high blood pressure. Only about half of these people have their high blood pressure under control. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. People with high blood pressure are four times more likely to die from a stroke and three times more likely to die from heart disease, compared to those with normal blood pressure.
High blood pressure is called the "silent killer" because it often has no warning signs or symptoms and many people do not know they have it. That's why it is important to check your blood pressure regularly.

To keep your blood pressure in a healthy range and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke:
• Eat a healthy diet
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Get enough physical activity
• Do not smoke
• Limit alcohol use

If your blood pressure is high, there are steps you can take to get it under control:
• Talk to your doctor and ask what your blood pressure should be. Set a goal to lower your blood pressure and talk about how you can reach your goal. Track your blood pressure over time.
• Take your blood pressure medication as directed. Set a timer on your phone to remember to take your medication at the same time each day. If you are having trouble remembering to take your medications or if you are having side effects, ask your doctor for help.
• Quit smoking—and if you don't smoke, don't start.
• Reduce your sodium intake. Most Americans consume too much sodium, which can raise your blood pressure.

To improve your overall health, LRGHealthcare can help! Contact the Community Education Department at 527-7120 or for a listing of all upcoming classes.

For retired wrestler "Big" Dan Vinal, the comeback is about his health


Dan Vinal

TILTON — Dan Vinal was born to be big. By the time he graduated from Winnisquam Regional High School, he was 300 pounds, and athletic, claiming the state wrestling championship in 1985. His success attracted the attention of Walter "Killer" Kowalski, who recruited him to train at his wrestling academy in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, he also started a restaurant, Big Dan's Family Pizza, in his hometown.

His wrestling career took off. And so did his weight.

"I owned a restaurant," he said. "I just got bigger and bigger."

His size was part of his cultivated identity in the professional wrestling marketplace. He traveled the world "like a rock star," earning several titles along the way, such as International Wrestling Federation's heavyweight champion. After 25 years, though, his body had had enough of jumping off of ladders and crashing through tables, so he retired from wrestling and found equal success selling cars.

And he kept eating. Now, he looks back on something his dad had told him many years ago.

"My father used to tell me, Danny, you don't eat to live. You live to eat. I took me years to understand what he meant."

His eating habits were unchecked. He said he was drinking a gallon of Mountain Dew every day. The result was inevitable, he grew to 700 pounds and was diagnosed with diabetes. He gave the disease little heed, though.

"I had the attitude that it wouldn't happen to me because I was a super hero," he said. But, several years ago, he came face to face with his own mortality.

"All of a sudden, parts of me started to fail."

He could no longer keep up with his kids, was getting tired earlier in the evening, and his eyesight was starting to go. He's since had three surgeries to correct detached retinas, a side effect of diabetes, but his vision remains compromised.

So, there he was, his body battered by a quarter-century of professional wrestling and in the throes of diabetes. And with his 50th birthday coming up on Feb. 17, he knew his youth was well in his past. But, Vinal has a phrase he keeps in mind.

"The comeback is stronger than the setback." And he started to change. Now, he doesn't drink anything but water, he is careful about what he eats, and he makes a point to eat his meals slowly and deliberately. "I'm actually tasting food differently now," he said.

The scale started to move in the other direction.

Around the beginning of the year, he decided to take his weight loss game to a new level. He started a program where he replaces two meals a day with nutrition shakes, he partnered with a coach, and he has added walking to his daily routine. He is now down to 355 pounds, "and it's coming off," he said. His blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol statistics have also seen a dramatic improvement.

His first walk was 200 yards, and it wasn't easy. But, he made it back to his home on East Main Street. His second walk was longer, and now he has the confidence to head out for two miles. Sometimes he walks downtown, but if he can get a ride, he prefers to walk at the Tanger Outlet Mall.

One of his tools, he has found, is his social network. He often posts on Facebook about his ups and downs, and he enjoys having people walk with him. He thinks he can help others, too, by his example. He said his weight loss journey has simultaneously been one of the easiest and most difficult things he's done. It's hard to make the first step, but the next one is easy, and the benefits start soon thereafter. It took him decades to get to 700 pounds, but just a few short years to lose half of that weight.

"It's one step at a time," he said. "The main thing is, I've been able to do all these great things in a very short amount of time."

Vinal invited anyone who wants to join him, just for a walk or to help him for the rest of his journey, to "like" him on Facebook or call him at 293-3007.

"I'm not starving. It's easy to do. It starts with getting off the couch and taking one step," he said. "If I can do it, after the abuse my body has taken ... Why can't I take some people with me, and walk."


Most people with gum disease don't know they have it

February has officially been declared "Gum Disease Awareness Month" in an effort to increase visibility to this pervasive, but often ignored, chronic disease.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is the most common infection in the United States — more widespread than cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Gum disease has been linked to several significant health issues including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pre-term births and rheumatoid arthritis.
All U.S. states, except California, have signed proclamations over the last four years to declare February as Gum Disease Awareness Month. The sheer number of Americans with the disease, coupled with the significant health implications of untreated gum disease, underscores the importance of awareness. This national campaign is aimed at helping people make lifelong improvements to their health and quality of life by spreading awareness of the risk factors, symptoms and treatment options available in the fight against gum disease.
Fifty million Americans have moderate to severe gum disease. Of this staggering number, 40 million don't even know they have it. And only three percent of those who do know they have gum disease seek treatment. Gum disease is easily prevented, yet when left untreated, it can lead to devastating effects well beyond tooth loss.
To date, 49 states, including New Hampshire, plus the U.S. Virgin Islands have officially acknowledged Gum Disease Awareness Month to educate citizens and promote prevention and treatment.
The initiative is supported by the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry, a non-profit educational and research entity dedicated to providing outcome-based clinical training for patient-friendly surgical treatment for moderate to advanced periodontal disease, and the LAPIP™ protocol for the treatment of peri-implantitis around ailing and failing dental implants.
To learn more about gum disease and treatment options, visit or join the movement at and

Flint-style water crisis not likely to occur in Laconia


LACONIA — The ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan is as troubling to Laconia Water Works Superintendent Seth Nuttelman as it is to everyone else observing it. To the people who depend on water delivered by his department, he has a simple message.

"The chance of something like that happening in this area is very remote."

Levels of lead and copper in Laconia's water are so low that the Department of Environmental Science allows Laconia Water Works to test only once every three years. Lead, the culprit that has contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, is more than 300 times below the allowable limit in Laconia water. Nuttelman said that the maximum level for lead is 15 milligrams per liter, and the city's tap water tests show levels of .045. Copper is similarly scarce, with only .002 milligrams per liter in Laconia's water, while the limit is 1.3 milligrams.

The Flint, Michigan disaster began about two years ago, when city officials decided to draw their drinking water from the highly corrosive Flint River, instead of paying the city of Detroit for access to their water, which originates from Lake Huron. Despite the water's lower quality, the state Department of Environmental Quality didn't add an anti-corrosive agent, a decision which allowed the water to corrode the iron water mains and lead service pipes.

In October of last year, after months of insisting that the water was safe to drink, officials went back to using water from Lake Huron. However, the pipes are still leeching lead into the drinking water. Health experts fear that children who drank the water will suffer life-long neurological disabilities.

Laconia Water Works, which uses Paugus Bay as a water source, takes several steps to treat and filter the water before it comes out of residents' taps. Part of that treatment includes the addition of zinc orthophosphate, which prevents the transfer of metals from pipes entering the water. Nuttelman said that, even without the use of the anti-corrosion chemical, there's little opportunity for lead to enter the drinking water.

"I'm not aware of any lead pipes within our system," he said. Nearly all of the water delivery system is comprised of pipes made from copper and ductile iron. There are very few iron service pipes, and those might be joined with short lead components.

"Our system has been very well maintained," he said. That's a far different case than is seen in Flint, where long-term budget crises have resulted in old systems in need of repair and modernization.

"We're watching it very closely," Nuttelman said of the Flint situation. "It's disheartening, because it looks to me like various people dropped the ball at many levels along the way."

"It's obviously a great concern for health, especially for children. It doesn't speak well for the purveyance of drinking water. It looks to me like a lot of people weren't paying attention."



Ask Lisa

Q: Dear Lisa;

I have heard that drug addiction is a "family disease." What does that mean? Does it mean that addiction runs in families?

A: Thank you for bringing up this important topic. While there are genetic factors involved in addiction, the term "family disease" refers to the impact that an individuals addiction has on family members. Addiction is defined as an overwhelming, compulsive need to use a drug (including alcohol) regardless of potentially devastating consequences for them and for their family. Family members experience significant stress as their loved one progresses in their addiction. The struggle to manage our own wellbeing while trying to cope with our loved one's addiction can be overwhelming. Our best efforts to help may actually result in enabling the addictive behavior and leave us feeling powerless.

Parents, grandparents, siblings and loved ones cannot control an individuals addiction, but they can find help. Many groups exist nationally and locally to help family members learn about the disease and to offer their experiences, strength and hope. Participants of these groups learn that they are not alone and find strength and comfort from others who share their experience. For more information on peer support groups contact:

• Families Advocating Substance Treatment, Education and Recovery (FASTER): The group is held on the second and fourth Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Family Resource Center, 719 N. Main St. Laconia: Contact Nancy at 293-0960 for more information.
• Families Sharing Without Shame: The group meets every Monday, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at Lakes Region General Healthcare in Laconia, conference room LL 3/4. Contact Donna (group founder, Concord/Manchester) at 568-0533, or Camille (Laconia) at 630-5013 for more information.
• Alanon:

For more information on addiction as a family disease, see
For information on where to find help: