No Ordinary Joe talks Tuesday in New Ulm

NEW ULM – One of the country’s most respected experts on how to live a healthy lifestyle will talk Tuesday night at the 6th Annual Heart of New Ulm (HONU) Community Summit at the New Ulm Event Center.

Joe Piscatella, the host of three Public Broadcasting System (PBS) television specials on lifestyle and health and the author of 13 books, will present the latest science on diet, exercise, stress and attitude.

Nearly four decades ago, Piscatella said he had a “perfect” physical at age 32. He wasn’t overweight, but his health declined due to his unhealthy lifestyle.

“Playing tennis one day, I felt a little pulling in my chest. I had it checked out a month later, thinking it might be bronchitis,” Piscatella said. “I was surprised to find I had 95 percent blockage of my left main artery, a situation some doctors call a “widow-maker.”

Piscatella said he has a “genetic lean” toward high cholesterol, had a poor diet, didn’t regularly exercise, did not smoke but inhaled lots of secondary smoke. He said he was under lots of stress owning his own business before he had coronary bypass surgery and changed his lifestyle. The changes came after he heart a sobering comment from one of his doctors.

“My prognosis was not good after (bypass) surgery,” Piscatella said. “One doctor said he didn’t think I’d live to be 40 because the disease was so aggressive and I was so young. I concentrated on the things I could change-diet, stress, exercise. My 36 years post bypass is a testament to healthy lifestyle changes.”

Not in favor of extremely low-fat or other fad diets,” Piscatella said he now eats a “middle of the road” Mediterranean diet with lots of fish, grain, vegetables, skinless chicken and lean cuts of beef, not bratwurst, but occasional chocolate. “If you subscribe to a diet that doesn’t taste good, you won’t stick to it,” he said.

His exercise program now includes walking or jogging six days a week and upper body workouts twice a week with a trainer.

“You’ve got to do something indoors or outdoors. You can’t just sit around. The body was designed to be physically active,” he said. “If it’s snowing, work out indoors if you prefer. There is too much inactivity in this country. We’re the most overweight country on the face of the earth. If you don’t move your body, you don’t use calories. If you walk at a good pace several days a week, you’ll get lifetime benefits from it.”

Piscatella said balanced diets, like the Mediterranean diet, work.

“Try to control cholesterol without drugs if you need to,” he said. “Due to genetics, I take a statin drug to help me. Without statins, my cholesterol is 130. Now it’s below 70, which is good for a heart patient.”

Piscatella said he’ll encourage people to write notes to themselves about losing weight and following a healthier lifestyle. Ten of his heart healthy cookbooks will be among Summit door prizes.

Cindy Winters, HONU Community Program and Public Policy Specialist, said the latest HONU video about New Ulm health improvements over the past year will be shown at the Summit.

Dittrich Specialties General Manager Brice Andree will talk about his success in the HONU Lose It to Win It Community Health Challenge in which he lost weight and improved his physical fitness. All adults who live or work in New Ulm can take part in the Health Challenge. All who register by Oct. 31 will be entered in a drawing to win an iPad and earn $10 towards a campaign to raise $100,000 for the community prize of outdoor fitness equipment and bicycle improvements. Hy-Vee fuel vouchers and food samples will be available.

For more information, visit and

Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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