Can disease be reversible?

Presently we have access to more medications and cutting edge technological procedures, but unfortunately the health of Americans has not significantly improved. The growing cost of health care has allowed us to live longer but also “sicker”. The epidemic of obesity continues to rise. It is predicted that diabetes will affect 50% of the population by 2050. What has happened? The answer is that although we are good at identifying and treating disease, we are missing the mark because we are not treating the cause of the disease.

Help is on the way. More and more research has shown that how we live our lives day to day greatly affects our risk for disease and making the correct changes can potentially either prevent or ameliorate major illness! Recent research has shown that sources of chronic inflammation in our body can lead to the development of chronic diseases. For example, poor sleep, stress, fatty and processed foods are responsible for our decline in health, not just “our genes”. Our genes only account for 20 – 30% of our health destiny, our environment and lifestyle will dictate the rest. “Genes are the loaded gun, but our lifestyle is the trigger”. Most diseases, especially heart disease, are not random occurrences but the consequences of the things people do every day. In fact, Dr. Ornish has shown that heart disease can be reversed. In as little as 3 months angina and constricted vessels can dilate and stop symptoms without medications.

The new medical specialty called “Lifestyle Medicine” has emerged and addresses every area of a person’s life in order to create positive health outcomes minimizing the need for medications. There is now evidenced-based answers to questions such as:
What is a healthy diet?
How can I improve my sleep?
Am I handling my stress effectively?
Are my relationships and social connections supporting my health?
How can I stop self-sabotage and develop skills that help me stick with health promoting habits?

The most convincing research (the EPIC study, 2009) tracked 23,000 individuals (age 35 – 65) over their life span. The data showed that practicing just 4 lifestyle interventions decreased their risk for developing diabetes by 93% and all major chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and even dementia, by 80%. These are amazing statistics! The four lifestyle interventions were:
1) They did NOT smoke
2) They had a BMI (body mass index below 30)
3) They exercised at least 3-1/2 hours per week
4) They ate a nutritious diet (mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains and minimal meat)

Our health care system primarily focuses on identifying disease and finding the quickest most effective treatment. However, truly achieving health resides almost entirely on an individual’s choices.

Carol Penfield, Nurse Practitioner and owner of Chatham Health & Swim Club recently returned from the national convention on “Lifestyle Medicine” and is excited to share cutting edge information with the community.
Come learn more about how you can improve certain aspects of your health, potentially take less medication, have more energy and continue to enjoy your life!

FREE Lifestyle Medicine information sessions at Chatham Health & Swim Club are open to the public on the following dates:
Saturday, Nov. 22nd: 11am
Saturday, Dec. 6th: 11am
Saturday, Jan. 3rd: 11:00am
Call 508-945-3555 to reserve. Space is limited.

Drums Alive!

Does a marching band bring you joy? Do you find yourself tapping your toes to a good song?

Following the beat can improve your health.  Every person has a rhythm in their body. For example, your heart is beating 60 – 100 beats per minute and your lungs inhale and exhale approximately 18 times per minute.  Connecting with these automatic rhythms and adding other beats such as drumming, allows the potential to connect the mind, body, soul and spirit deep within us. The enjoyment of music and rhythm in the form of drumming and dancing in a group has been practiced for thousands of years.  It allows a unique style of expression, celebration with music and a sense of community.

Recent studies by Neher & Bittmann have shown that drumming stimulates the electrical activity of sensory and motor pathways of the brain.  It also affects the central nervous system and has a positive influence on the immune system. Based on this fascinating research, founder Carrie Ekins, M.A., developed a fun new form of exercise called “DRUMS ALIVE”  which incorporates the rhythms of music and adds drumming and movement.This new fitness class uses rhythm as a source of inspiration and combines the benefits of  group exercise as well.

In addition to the usual health benefits of fitness, Drums Alive uniquely offers additional benefits such as:imagesVW3Z8HP9

  • Improved neuromuscular function
  • Increased focus and concentration
  • Posture and body alignment
  • “Brain fitness” and memory enhancement
  • Overall sense of well being and decreased depression
  • Stimulation of fine motor skills/hand & eye coordination
  • Increased creative expression

The combination of dynamic movement and drumming on stationary fitness balls makes everyone and anyone a part of the beat.  You do not realize you are exercising your mind in addition to your body!

What is the class like?  The participants can be standing (or seated) in front of a fitness ball placed on a stationary frame. The fitness class is designed to include a warm up and an introduction of single, double, and other combinations of beats using drumming sticks on the fitness balls.  The cardiovascular fitness section includes the break down and add-on of varying levels of rhythm combinations and movement patterns.  At the end of the class there is a cool down using slower beats and finishing with relaxation and stretching.

Drums Alive is a program that fosters a healthy balance physically, mentally, emotionally and socially.  Join a class and experience for yourself a fun and inspiring form of exercise!

Master DRUMS ALIVE instructor, Rene King will be offering FREE demonstrations on Wednesday, July  16th : at 9:15, 10:00, & 10:45am. Class size is limited. Call Chatham Health & Swim Club to reserve. 508-945-3555.

Weight and Blood Pressures are dropping at Chatham Health & Swim Club

The annual 6-week “Weigh to Better Health” Team weight loss program has helped 80 participants lose 521.7 pounds this year, making a total of 2978 pounds spanning 5 years.  Not only that, but this year many lowered their blood pressures too.  For example, H.K. dropped her BP from 186/92 to 144/82, M.M from 153/84 to 118/74 and A.C. from 138/98 to 108/72.

Sure, weight loss can assist with a drop in blood pressure, but more immediate changes were noticed.  How? By practicing a 1:2 deep breathing technique introduced by Nancy Samotis, MFA, LicSW and RYT (Staff Restorative and Seated Yoga Instructor and psychotherapist) during one of the weekly nutrition and lifestyle medicine workshops.  Each participant’s blood pressure was measured by Dr. David Penfield (co-owner & ER physician), then Sally Moore coached the 1:2 breathing practice and a follow-up blood pressure was obtained after 3-5 minutes.  “It was amazing to find that it didn’t take long to see a significant difference in almost everyone’s blood pressure” stated Dr. Penfield.

There are multiple forms of yogic breath, but “1:2 breathing” is easy to practice and helps calm the nervous system.  The breathing technique involves inhaling through the nose for 2-counts and slowly exhaling through the mouth for long controlled 4-counts.

Practicing this style of breathing during times of physical or mental stress helps to manage the “fight or flight” response to negative stress and lower blood pressure. Taking fewer but deeper breaths each minute temporarily lowers blood pressure and calms the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for generating stress hormones. The mind and body are very intimately connected; when the mind is completely at ease, the whole body also gains complete relaxation.

Other key components of the weight loss program included weekly educational workshops and ongoing support to help the participants to:

  • Choose a personal form record/log keeping
  • Minimize daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mgs per day,
  • Increase daily exercise to 30 – 60 min./day  or 10, 000 steps/day
  • Eat at least 2-1/2 cups of vegetables
  • Take fun new classes such as indoor rowing or water interval classes

In addition to learning how to sustain healthy behaviors each week, a cooking class was included this year.  Chef Dana Dunbar, owner of Beach Plum Chef in Brewster demonstrated unique and tasty ways to prepare vegetables with minimal usage of salt.

Interested in learning the 2:1 breath?  Come try a Restorative Yoga class Thursdays 5:30 – 6:15pm or a Seated Yoga class on Fridays 10 – 11am.  Drop-ins are welcome at Chatham Health & Swim Club.

Thank you to our event T-shirt sponsors:

Acupuncture with Hope,Cape Cod Ambulance, Cape Cod Chronicle, Cape Cod Emergency Assoc., Chatham Candy Manor, Chatham Village Market, Jennifer Eldredge Stello Photography, Kinlin Grover Realty, Pine Acres Realty, Schumacher Properties, Stello Construction Ent. Inc., W. Vernon Whiteley Plumbing & Heating

Weight and Blood Pressures are dropping at Chatham Health & Swim Club

Big losses show bigger gains in no time at all!

Improving your health is not just about weight loss.  Too often healthy habits are abandoned without the acknowledgment of other hidden improvements.  How do you measure success?  The scale never seems to show changes fast enough.  What about your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar or other disease risk factors?  Weight loss is visual and you are reminded daily of that number, however,  other health markers can change and have a greater impact on quality of life, but go unnoticed.

With the healthcare costs rising and decreasing reimbursed services, we must shift our focus to ways to improve our health without medication. Caring for your health IS healthcare.

What better place but at a HEALTH club?  Not a gym, but a true health club.  Chatham Health & Swim Club has helped participants not only lose over 2,600 pounds, but make incredible health improvements in other ways. It can be done in just 6 weeks!

For example: GW, a diabetic, enrolled in the annual weight loss challenge at Chatham Health and Swim Club.  After 6 weeks her blood work showed:

Total Cholesterol: decreased from 318 to 243

Triglycerides: decreased from 374 to 178

HDL (good cholesterol):  increased from 38 to 40

LDL (bad cholesterol): decreased from 205 to 167

Glycohemoglobin A1c (blood sugar measurement): decreased from 9.8 to 7.7 

But of note, she was able to accomplish these impressive results without a significant weight change!

Weight loss should not be your only guide.  Too often failure to lose weight causes people to abandon healthy life-style changes such as eating more vegetables, exercising regularly, etc. 

Other examples;

DB, after 6 weeks of specialized programs, showed a 3.5% decrease in body fat even with minimal change in weight.

PK, a diabetic, lowered his blood sugar into normal range and decreased his diabetes medication.   He also lost 18.6 pounds.

This year the weight loss and health improvement program directed by Carol Penfield, M.S., Nurse Practitioner, will also specifically address blood pressure.

Since 3 out of 4 people over age 60 have high blood pressure, this year’s weight loss challenge will add the focus of not just weight reduction, but also decreasing blood pressure. Other optional tracts will include cholesterol and blood sugar lowering with the goal of decreasing the need for medications.

It does not have to be overwhelming, just simple changes can make a significant impact.  According to the NIH’s review of all studies, lowering blood pressure by just 5 mm Hgs (diastolic/lower number) reduces risk for stroke by 34% and ischemic heart disease by 21%!

The focus is not just about dieting, but about making healthy changes with proper support for long lasting results. What you do day to day greatly affects your health status.  Too often we wait until we have a problem with our health before we start addressing our lifestyle.

You CAN take charge of your health in 2014. It only takes 6 weeks!  Learn more about Chatham Health & Swim Club’s successful programs at a FREE info session, Sat., Jan.  4th, 11am – 12pm.  Start date is Mon. Jan. 6th, 2014.

Or contact Carol Penfield at:

She is also available for medical consultations and accepts most insurances.

How To Achieve Life Long Fitness

          The typical decline associated with aging is at least 50% due to becoming less active with age.  According to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, a physically active lifestyle can add 10 – 15 years to one’s live span.  Due to the advancements in medicine, Americans now live longer.  However, technology and computers have led to an increased sedentary lifestyles and increased risk for chronic health and mobility problems.  It is becoming increasingly important to address physical decline due to disease or disuse, and to modify it with proper assessment and activity interventions.  The goal of life long fitness is to focus on maintaining the ability to continue to do the things one wants and needs to do; by staying strong, active and independent.
          What does it take?  The answer varies based on age, gender and lifestyle.  Very few careers or household activities provide the recommended amount of energy expenditure to meet the requirements for good health.  (Especially now that there are modern conveniences such as on-line shopping and remote controls)  First, it is important to find out how you compare to others your age.  Age-specific fitness assessments have been recently developed and standardized by Rikli and Jones for adults aged 60- 95.  The evaluations are simple and appropriate for a full range of individuals from those de-conditioned to those active or athletic.  The assessments provide objective measurements to allow measurable goals and feedback for those returning to or enhancing their exercise routine,.  Physical attributes evaluated include balance, flexibility, endurance, strength, and body composition.  Carol Penfield, nurse practitioner and owner of Chatham Health & Swim Club, offers these assessments to assist individuals with identifying areas at risk for loss of function or mobility coupled with recommended interventions.  For example, “Do you feel that you have poor balance?”  “How do you know if it is improving or worsening?”  Objective evaluations with episodic re-evaluations can help guide you towards effective interventions to keep you safe and active.  During a 15-minute consultation with Carol Penfield you will obtain a baseline and the opportunity to track your score over time to monitor changes.

          Fitness testing is not just for school-age children and those entering the armed forces.  Learn how you can develop a life-long fitness plan that is appropriate for someone aged 60 – 64, 65 – 69, 70 – 74 etc.  A FREE information session will be held at the Chatham Health & Swim Club on Saturday, September 7th from 11am – 12.  If you are unable to attend, you can book a 15-minute consultation with Carol Penfield NPc, by calling 508-945-3555.  Look ahead, not behind, as your health is worth it!

How to make healthy changes you CAN live with.

By Carol Penfield, M.S., Nurse Practitioner

How you live your life day to day directly affects your health and quality of life.   Most people realize this and recognize the need for changes in their behaviors. The challenge is how to obtain “sustainable” changes.  The most common initial motivating factor is fear.  Some individuals may stop drinking after an embarrassing event, others may stop eating high fat foods after a heart attack. Too often after a few weeks or months denial returns and former habits start to trickle back into the daily routine.

Re-programing the mind to change from the “fear of dying” to the “joy of living” is helpful but can be challenging.  Dr. Dean Ornish demonstrated in his research that in order to maintain healthy changes the process must be fun, enjoyable and target the interest of the individual. Each person is unique and developing successful strategies for change involves many factors.

Are there changes that you would like to make such as; exercising more often, eating more vegetables or avoiding stress-eating?  Then ask yourself the following two questions:

1)    “How important is it to me to change?” 

            Using a scale from 1(not interested) to 10 (very eager),

            My number = _________.

2)    “How confident am I that I can change?”

            Using the same scale, 1(not at all) to 10 (I am very motivated),

            My number = _________. 

If you find that changing your behavior is important but you are not motivated, then your goal setting should be modest.  If changing is important and your confidence is high, then now is the time to take action. However, if both answers are below 4 then ask yourself, “What would it take to get my score up above 5 in both categories?”  These questions are examples of tools that can help you start the process of creating healthy changes in your life.  

It is important to remind yourself that even small changes can have a large impact on disease management and prevention.  For example, these are two impressive and motivating studies;

1)    The “EPIC” study followed 23,000 people and those that adhered to 4 simple behaviors (not smoking, exercising 3.5 hours per week, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight) showed 93% of diabetes, 81% of heart attacks, 50% of strokes and 36% of all cancers were prevented.

2)    The “Nurses’ Health Study” of 238,000 nurse-participants showed that 80% of all heart disease and 91% of diabetes could be eliminated if women adopted lifestyle practices including exercise, normal body weight,  simple nutritional changes and smoking cessation.

According to Dr. Dean Ornish, “When you make healthy choices you feel better quickly. When you feel better you enjoy making healthy choices.”


Get the support and guidance you need to help YOU lead a healthier lifestyle.

Carol Penfield will be hosting a FREE Lifestyle Medicine workshop addressing; proper nutrition, fitness, managing stress, and improving sleep on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012 from 9 – 10 am. at Chatham Health and Swim Club. It is open to the public, but space is limited.  Call Chatham Health & Swim Club to reserve: 508-945-3555.


Carol Penfield, M.S., Nurse Practitioner has opened a medical practice specializing in Lifestyle Medicine.  Her private office is located below the Chatham Health & Swim Club, and she accepts most medical insurances. 508-945-7761



April 24-May 15th
Four Tuesdays from 5:30-7pm
Fee: $135 * 3 FREE Club passes and 10% off a massage with Joyce Hutchings, RN, LMT
Come join us! Each visit includes a brief educational session to help you understand
the science behind aging and physical change, as well as new ways to improve your health and quality of life.

Your Presenters……
Carol Penfield, M.S.,NPc, Nurse Practitioner
Carol has been a Nurse Practitioner since 1994 and has additional training and expertise in the Lifestyle
Medicine fields of arthritis, weight management, nutrition, diabetes and rehabilitation medicine.

Nancy Samotis, LICSW, RYT
Nancy is a psychotherapist and yoga instructor who integrates yoga therapeutics and mind body
principles to help her clients navigate transition and expand their lives in creative and fulfilling ways.

Call or come in to reserve your spot: 508-945-3555

A week in the life of a “Weigh” to Better Health Team Weight Loss Challenge participant! CHC Support Team!

2012 Weigh to Better Health WEEK #5 (Jan. 27 – Feb 3)

Having fun while losing weight

Keep up the good work!

Way to go Rocco!

PEP TALK: Slow and steady wins the race! Pay attention to the small steps in life. Keep your focus on committing to healthy “short term goals” rather than just trying to weigh less. Remember that the medical literature has shown that individuals who exercise regularly are healthier independent of what they weigh.
A) Healthy Meal Plans and Suggested food options: The typical American diet is actually high in protein. A vegetarian diet offers lower cholesterol, higher fiber and potentially lower calorie alternatives.

For the dessert lovers. Craving “something sweet” after dinner is actually a habit. Try some of these low calorie dessert alternatives:

Food Choices: Carol’s Top dessert picks for less than 150 calories
• Skinny Cow: Fudgsicles (100 cal) or icecream sandwiches (150 cal)
• Jello Mousse Dark Chocolate Decadence (60 cal)
• Blue Diamond Cocoa roasted almonds or cinnamon/brown sugar (12 = 1oz)
• Barry’s French Twist pastries (60 cal)
• Miss Meringue cookies: Sugar Free (35 cal) or Fat Free (150 cal):
Vanilla, Choc., cappuccino, mint, lemon…
• Quaker Mini Delights Chocolatey Drizzle multigrain cakes (90 cal)

B) Exercise: Don’t be afraid of the water! People who exercise in the water exercise longer. Why? The warmth and buoyancy of the water is gentle on the joints. 75% of your body weight is eliminated when you are in our club’s pool! If you use a foam noodle then you are 100% weightless!
Try a water fitness class or take a swimming lesson with our instructor Greg Johnson (ask the front desk staff)

Exercise moves: Abs & Core: Curl-ups using the ab. bench = place the peg at “10”, keep head back against the head rest and avoid lifting the head as you curl up.
Seated rotations using the pulley system in the far fitness area = set the lever arm at 5, and the resistance at 2.0, sit on green ball, hold pulley and twist right and left.

C) Willpower Boosting Suggestions: Are you feeding your mood or is it true “hunger”? Ask yourself the following questions. “Am I actually………”
1) Tired? Then rest, relax or go to bed earlier than usual.
2) Bored? Distract yourself with a book, computer project or see a movie.
3) Anxious? Do Nancy’s deep breathing exercises or stretch.
4) Depressed? Go for a walk. Just 10 minutes of exercise can elevate your mood, or consider counseling.
5) Thirsty? Make a cup of tea or drink a large glass of water
6) Craving? Which is simply allowing a habit to continue.
Not sure? If your stomach is growling or it has been 3-4 hours since your last meal or snack, then allow yourself a healthy snack of 150 – 200 calories.

Want to know the “key” to successful weight loss?

Step by step approach to permanent weight loss.

What is the secret to successful weight loss and what does it take to keep from re-gaining? The answer is at Chatham Health and Swim Club, where participants have literally lost a ton of weight. Carol Penfield, owner of the Chatham Health & Swim Club, has applied her specialized medical expertise to help both members and non-members successfully lose weight. Her unique “Weigh to Better Health” team weight loss program not only works; it has also led to a healthier community. Since 2010, during three 6-week programs, 293 participants have lost 1,956 pounds while simultaneously raising over $38,000 to support primary care at Fontaine Medical Center. The enrollment fees for all the participants have been donated to the Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation in order to benefit the health of others in the community.

Carol Penfield, who is an independent nurse practitioner, applies the fundamental principles of a new medical specialty called “Lifestyle Medicine”. Lifestyle medicine offers proven strategies for converting knowledge “I know I need to lose weight” to action “here is my plan”. Solutions to changing exercise and eating habits must be very individualized. For example, a person who enjoys crunchy foods will not be satisfied with a low fat yogurt, or someone who grew up eating comfort foods will not adhere to eating celery!

Three [out of many] principles of the Lifestyle Medicine approach specific to treating obesity are as follows:
First, you must set appropriate goals by asking yourself the following questions:

• Why do I want to lose weight? Choose health-related goals that are achievable and measurable; rather than “because I want to look good” since only 1% of our population is ever truly satisfied with their appearance.

• How important is it, and how motivated am I? You should objectify your answer by using a scale of 1 – 10 (1 = not confident and 10 = very confident). If your confidence level is below 5, then the goals should stay small and be made weekly.

Second, routine exercise MUST be practiced. 95% of people who lose weight and keep it off exercise at least 5 times weekly for an accumulated amount of 60 minutes. Addressing specific barriers to exercise such as pain, time, or finances is critical in order to attain exercise adherence.

Third is accountability. Most individuals underestimate their daily dietary intake and overestimate their activity level, leading to gradual weight gain over the years.
Diet logs and the use of pedometers are excellent examples of objective recording. Reporting in to a group, coach, or medical professional such as Carol Penfield has been documented to improve outcomes.

Most New Year resolutions start to dwindle by the end of February. Successful gains in health will not be sustained by just a resolution once a year. There is another answer…Lifestyle Medicine. Lifestyle Medicine practices have been proven to be extremely successful nationwide by achieving measurable gains in health [including weight loss] over time. Common and critical conditions are treated, such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and back pain, as well as obesity. Carol Penfield’s Lifestyle Medicine practice, located on the campus of the Chatham Health and Swim Club, is the first such program on Cape Cod. She helps her patients find that delicate balance when creating attainable goals, in order to minimize discouragement and build confidence. The practice offers on-going individual and group support as well as weekly on-site or electronic check-in options, and is covered by most medical insurances.