Prevention, diet key to good health

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 25, 2000

&uot;Prevention is the best way.&uot; Natchez pediatrician Dr. Ayesha Dar knows prevention – everything from prenatal care to well-baby checkups – will help curb the kinds of statistics that place Mississippi and Louisiana at the bottom in the nation in terms of health care, especially early in life.

That’s why Dar is encouraging new parents, especially those with premature infants, to learn basic CPR and even just parenting skills.

She also encourages parents to make sure their children get regular checkups.

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&uot;You have to make sure they are developing right,&uot; she said. &uot;Then you can catch things early. That’s the best way – prevention is the best way about it.&uot;

Dar’s advice would serve people throughout the rest of their lives as well.

According to a recent survey, Mississippi and Louisiana residents are among the unhealthiest in the nation, based on statistics such as access to health care and risk for heart disease.

That particular factor is not one that surprises Kay Jenkins, a registered dietician and director of food services at Natchez Community Hospital.

&uot;Southern diet,&uot; she said simply when she heard Mississippi ranks 50th and Louisiana ranks 49th in the United Health Group survey.

&uot;Our No. 1 downfall is quantity,&uot; she said, running through the litany of menu items most people probably had at their Thanksgiving dinners, from heavy gravies to sweet desserts.

&uot;It’s the fried foods, the gravies, the sauces,&uot; she said. &uot;People just in general overeat.&uot;

For her own family, Jenkins often uses SugarBusters recipes, which cut out processed sugar. She also advises using substitutions, such as yogurt in place of sour cream in dips.

Jenkins believes most people may not realize how what they choose to consume each day can affect their overall health.

&uot;People just tend not to think of the long-term effects,&uot; she said. &uot;People just don’t see the whole picture. You can get into real medical complications.&uot;

Jenkins said people should analyze what they eat – especially in terms of what she calls &uot;empty calories,&uot; such as soft drinks and &uot;value meals&uot; from fast-food restaurants. Jenkins said she does not think people realize &uot;how many actual calories are there.&uot;

The fact that residents of Southern states like Mississippi and Louisiana have a greater tendency to be at risk for heart disease is tied to culture, Jenkins said.

&uot;I think in the South with family get-togethers our lifestyle is just geared toward (over-eating),&uot; she said. &uot;Everything is centered around food.

&uot;It’s fine if people (eat a lot at holidays such as Thanksgiving) but in the South people tend to do it all year long.&uot;