Seminar teaches public how to live more healthy lives

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 17, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Blood pressure and blood sugar screenings at a Saturday workshop set the tone for a day filled with details on how to live smart.

&uot;We tried to get together information on things that are important to a family,&uot; said Edward Brown, executive director of Positive Choices, a Vidalia, La., counseling service and sponsor of the workshop along with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity in Natchez.

Before 9 a.m., more than a dozen people had stopped for screenings and to have weights recorded at Zion Chapel AME Church Annex, where the event titled &uot;It Matters to a Man and the Woman Who Cares for Him&uot; took place.

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Nurse educators and administrators Maybelle Jackson and Irma Lane of Alcorn State University School of Nursing presided at the screenings. Lane said everyone should take the time to have such quick, easy and free checkups.

&uot;It’s important for early detection and hopefully it’s preventive,&uot; Lane said of the screenings. &uot;We hope it will make people think about leading a healthy lifestyle.&uot;

Speaker after speaker throughout the rest of the day echoed that phrase, &uot;leading a healthy lifestyle.&uot;

Doctors, educators and nurses gave programs on diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and prostate cancer as well as on ways to control cholesterol and ways to stop smoking.

An insurance executive described

investments, savings accounts and insurance policies families should consider. An attorney explained the importance of wills. And a physical therapist laid out ways lifestyle changes can make an impact on one’s health.

Dr. J.R. Todd, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha and also one of the speakers at the workshop, said the event was a way for the fraternity to contribute to the community.

&uot;Even though the economy is bad in Natchez, there are many things we can do for ourselves,&uot; said Todd, a medical doctor. &uot;People are not coming here to do these things for us.&uot;

Todd said his philosophy is that the more education people have, the better they can care for themselves.

&uot;A lot of diseases require you to be self-managed. You don’t just go to the doctor and get a pill. You have to be informed,&uot; he said.

Dr. Samuel White, president of the fraternity, said he hopes the Saturday event is the first in a series to address men’s health issues. &uot;One of the things we focus on is community service,&uot; White said. &uot;We have put together an excellent faculty from a cross-section of the community. And they are all coming here volunteering on their own time.&uot;

Todd noted the startling 33 percent rise in the number of diabetes cases in recent years. &uot;It’s a costly disease,&uot; he said, using illustrations to explain the two types of diabetes, how the disease progresses, what its symptoms are and which people are most at risk.

Those most at risk may be obese, have a family history of the disease, have an inactive lifestyle, be over 40, be a woman who delivered a baby over nine pounds or be African-American, Hispanic, Native American or Pan Asian.

Managing diabetes requires eating healthy, exercising and monitoring one’s glucose, Todd said. &uot;I call it a therapeutic lifestyle change.&uot;

Those at risk for diabetes can intervene with those lifestyle changes and can prevent further complications by monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol and by getting specific blood tests that could signal the physician of a change that requires attention.

Cholesterol has many different names, Dr. Evelyn Steiner told workshop participants. &uot;But it all means fat,&uot; she said. &uot;And that’s a problem because in food, fat is what tastes good.&uot;

The liver produces all the cholesterol one needs, she said. &uot;The extra cholesterol attaches itself to the walls of the blood vessels. The space gets smaller and the cholesterol gets harder. The vessel gets less flexible,&uot; Steiner said.

The cholesterol slows down blood. Blood begins to clot. &uot;And a little bitty clot can move to completely close off a vessel. That can lead to heart attack or stroke.&uot;

What can one do? Eat a diet lower in fat. &uot;Eliminate saturated fats such as in beef, pork, lamb, dairy products, organ meats, coconuts and palm oil,&uot; she said. &uot;Eat oatmeal, foods with fiber like orange juice, pears, carrots, Brussels sprouts, dried peas and beans. Go to skim milk, yogurt, olive, peanut and canola oils. Walk 30 minutes a day and reduce your weight.&uot;

Many of the life-threatening and life-changing diseases are related, as Dr. Jo Ann Francis, a medical doctor in Fayette, told the group in a program on hypertension, or high blood pressure.

The recommendations are similar, too&045;&045; weight loss, low-sodium diet and moderate exercise, she said.

&uot;I tell patients not to cook with salt. The taste of the salt is lost in the cooking but not the physiological effects the salt can have on you,&uot; Francis said.

Robert Barlow, a registered nurse with a urology clinic in Hattiesburg, explained the latest medical treatments of prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.

&uot;African-American men have the highest risk of prostate cancer and are more likely to die of it,&uot; Barlow said. &uot;They are genetically predisposed to the disease.&uot;

The cause of prostate cancer has not been defined, he said. &uot;But we can treat it very successfully. I have seen many patients with prostate cancer who have gone on to overcome it and lead high quality lives.&uot;

Screening for prostate cancer should begin at least by age 45, Barlow said. If a blood test shows a reason for further testing, the doctor may perform a biopsy. &uot;If cancer is present, several treatments are used, depending on the age of the patient and other factors.&uot;

The good news for men with prostate cancer &045;&045; when it is caught at the early stages &045;&045; is that there is an 86 percent chance for survival.

On matters other than medical, attorney Patricia Dunmore cautioned workshop participants to have a will &uot;if you want to control what happens to your property after your death.&uot;

She explained the Mississippi law regarding someone leaving no will. &uot;Your property passes to your spouse and children on an equal level. If there is no spouse and no child, it passes to your parents, sisters and brothers on an equal level.&uot;

Especially today, when families are sometimes extended because of previous marriages and children from other marriages, wills are important, Dunmore said.

&uot;It’s a good idea to have a will so things will be distributed the way you want them to be,&uot; she said. &uot;I’ve seen the nicest people fight over something not very important. Only one person can have Grandmas’s pearls.&uot;

Other speakers were James Allen Jr. on insurance; Dr. Ross C. Santell on diets for diabetes and lowering cholestorol; Donna Conner on ADHD and children in special education; Jerel West on therapeutic lifestyle changes; Simmons Iles on smoking cessation; Edward Brown on coping with anxiety; and Jesse Turner of United Mississippi Bank on community banking.