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Getting Down to the Business of Good Health

September 04, 1986|PENELOPE MOFFET

For 15 years, Fred Gabori of Villa Park went running almost daily--a kind of insurance, he thought, against ill health.

A wholesaler of life insurance policies, Gabori was familiar with the angina symptoms listed on "impaired risk" insurance forms. He knew his family history was ominous--a father who had had open heart surgery years before, a mother who died of apparent heart failure.

But Gabori was so certain his running would prevent heart trouble that when he first felt symptoms of arterial blockage three years ago, he did not recognize them. When his problem was diagnosed, the news came as "a total shock," Gabori, who is now 45, said.

Angioplasty, a non-surgical procedure through which blocked arteries are cleared of excess fat, eventually took care of the health threat. But a shaken Gabori drastically restructured his personal life style by learning to watch his diet, his sleep, his exercise and how he reacts to stress.

He also sold his Los Angeles company (doing away with a long daily commute) and became a consultant to several insurance-marketing firms. He says he now spends more time with his wife and young son and, most mornings, gives himself two-hour workouts at a Fullerton health club. He often begins his workday with late morning business meetings in the club's conference rooms.

"Hopefully," Gabori said, "I'm a little more aware of the causes of stress, and I walk away" from non-productive situations. "But I would be less than honest if I told you I was completely cured" of high-stress habits.

Gabori is featured on the first episode of a six-part PBS series called "Healthy People/Healthy Business" that premiered last spring and will begin rerunning on KCET-TV, Channel 28, this Saturday at 5 p.m., and on KOCE, Channel 50, Oct. 3 at 5 p.m. The series is also being shown on other PBS stations around the country. Shooting for another six episodes will begin next month, according to Elaine Willis, a Newport Beach nutritionist and marriage, family and child counselor who is the show's initiator and producer.

While few people may need or want to rearrange their lives as much as Gabori did, Willis said, many people "can do a variation" on such life-style changes. She began her own re-education process 15 years ago, she added.

For 17 years Willis had been a public relations and marketing consultant for textile companies, also being host on a Los Angeles television show on women's fashions. "I just lived this crazy life" of insufficient sleep, inadequate nutrition, little exercise and high-stress work, she said. "I made myself a nervous wreck." Hospitalized several times between 1966 and 1971 for bleeding ulcers, hypertension and her reactions to prescription drugs, Willis realized she had to change.

Switching to part-time fashion industry work, she went back to school to earn a master's degree in counseling and a doctorate in nutrition, then for two years was host on a daily five-minute radio spot on healthy life styles. For the last eight years she has conducted "wellness seminars" (workshops to help people restructure their health habits) for community groups and businesses. Last fall, she founded a nonprofit educational organization, the Newport Beach-based Foundation for Wellness, which co-sponsored "Healthy People" with KOCE.

Willis said she initiated the series because "I really felt that . . . people thought that work was one thing and health was another," but she thinks "wellness is really looking at your whole life to see if you have it in balance." The series was underwritten by Blue Cross of California.

Each show features a profile of a business person who has worked to improve health and work habits. Guest experts also discuss how stress, nutrition and mental attitudes affect individuals and the "bottom line" of company costs.

Kenneth Pelletier, one of the show's guests, is an associate clinical professor at the UC San Francisco School of Medicine. The author of "Healthy People in Unhealthy Places: Stress and Fitness at Work," Pelletier, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology, is directing a "Corporate Health Promotion Research Project" through UCSF. The project is developing smoking cessation, stress management, cancer screening, hypertension and nutrition programs for employees of 14 companies.

Pelletier also works as an independent consultant to advise businesses on ways to improve their work environments. He calls modern office buildings "the greatest occupational hazard" confronting today's workers. His research has shown that high noise levels, bad lighting and inadequately recycled air are common office problems that contribute to high stress levels and illness among employees, Pelletier said in a recent interview. Such factors also diminish productivity, he added.

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