Managing health issues requires lifestyle action plans

PAWLEYS ISLAND—People suffering from chronic health problems can feel overwhelmed and helpless.
But Ruth Keilen, director of health marketing at Lakes at Litchfield, said there are simple steps anyone can take to improve their health and lessen their pain.
She did so by enrolling in the international Better Choices, Better Health program after her open-heart surgery.
A member of St. Michael Church in Garden City, Keilen said she needed to change her cardiovascular health, and fast.
The Better Choices program made such a difference in her life that she became a lay leader and has taught the course to others for six months now.
“I can really see a difference, especially in my diet,” she said. “My refrigerator looks altogether different now than it did.”
Keilen said she’s lost 10 pounds, and her husband, who suffered a heart attack, has lost 20.
The program, created more than 20 years ago in partnership with Stanford University, is for people of all ages who have chronic health issues such as arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and more.
“Conditions that go for a long time that there’s really no cure for, this program helps people better manage their symptoms,” Keilen said.
It is also offered to family members and caregivers to help them achieve a better understanding.
The free six-week program is held one day a week for two-and-a-half hours, and offers a book and CD that participants can purchase.
The overall goal is to devise an action plan that will lead to better health. Each week, everyone sets a goal for themselves that they are confident they can reach.
Keilen said it can be something mild like walking to the mailbox each day, or drinking a glass of water before each meal.
“The biggest thing with the action plan is that it’s something you want to do, not something your husband wants you to do or something you feel you have to do,” said Angie Weaver, a master trainer.
She said ladies have tackled things as basic as cleaning off a closet shelf. It’s all about accomplishing goals and gaining confidence.
“I’ve seen people transform before my eyes,” she said.
Weaver has been with the program for two years. She said it helps her manage her arthritis pain and got her high blood pressure under control without medication.
Nutrition and exercise are a large component.
Instructors also teach a lot of relaxation techniques like deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and various methods of distraction.
Weaver said she used to scoff at some of the more creative methods, like guided imagery, that help people relax, let go of pain, or alleviate depression. But after going through it, she’s now a believer.
The program also teaches people to communicate effectively, not only with friends and family, but also with doctors so they can get the best possible care.
“With the way the whole health care system is changing, we really have to be more responsible for our own health,” Weaver said.
Keilen encourages churches to host the program, and said she hopes to take it to St. Michael and Precious Blood of Christ Church on Pawleys Island in the fall.
Trained instructors are available throughout the state. To find someone near you, call the state DHEC office at (803) 898-0760, and ask for the name of a local coordinator for Better Choices, Better Health or visit