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February 18, 2014

All decked out for … RED

Focusing on women’s heart health in Valley

TERRE HAUTE — Laughing can help you lose weight, reduce stress and improve your health, so the Essence of Red, a group of heart-health conscious volunteers, administered a full dose of comedy to a large crowd Tuesday night at the Indiana Theatre.

For a sixth year, the Essence of Red committee has sponsored the heart-health event, which is especially aimed at women. This year, however, men were also encouraged to attend – and, like the women, wear red.

“It’s nice to see all the people wearing red,” said Kristi Whitacre, one of the event organizers. Since its launch in 2009, the Essence of Red has raised more than $25,000 for local heart-health programs and education, she said. It has contributed to the American Heart Association, Wabash Valley Mended Hearts, the American Red Cross and heart healthy cooking courses.

Tickets for this year’s Essence of Red event at the Indiana Theatre were $25. More than 230 tickets were sold in advance with several more sold at the door, Whitacre said. A raffle raised more than $1,000.

The highlight of the event was Jan McInnus, a stand up comedian from Los Angeles, who got a lot of heart-healthy laughs talking about family, work and being a single baby boomer.

“Whatdaya mean you ‘won’ custody of your kids?” she recalled asking a former boyfriend with teenagers. If teens were the prize in a lottery, nobody would buy a ticket, she said.

McInnus said her experience with kids is limited mostly to her nieces and nephews. She had trouble with a young nephew she was babysitting once until she remembered how much her dog calmed down after being neutered.

“My brother was mad, though,” she joked.

When she was a teen, McInnus worked for her uncle’s funeral parlor. “He didn’t pay me, but I got a lot of nice clothes and jewelry,” she said.

Between jokes, McInnus reminded her audience how important laughing can be to good health. It can even promote weight loss as it burns calories. She also expressed skepticism about fad diets, reminding her audience that fad diets named for certain people always look bad when those people die. The inventor of the Atkins diet is dead, but “you know who is still alive? Ronald McDonald. And he looks pretty good, too!” she said.

Dr. Ahsan Mahmood, medical director at Hamilton Center, one of the title sponsors of the event along with Union Hospital, had a few more serious comments earlier in the evening regarding heart health and stress. Stress can lead to other problems linked to health problems, such as hypertension, alcohol abuse and sleep disorders, he said.

“Stress can kill you,” he said, urging all those in attendance to get their heart-health screenings.

The Essence of Red event is a “wonderful cause” worth supporting, said Bonnie Carle of Terre Haute, attending for a third year. While we often associate heart disease with men, “this is recognizing this is also a serious problem for women,” she said.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

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