Health experts urge lifestyle changes

The Red Dress Affair, held last Wednesday at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, educated the attendees on numerous health issues.

In conjunction with various booths hosted by health professionals, attendees were also able to learn valuable health information from the two guest speakers of the evening, Dr. Nancy Eklund and Mikki Thompson.

Dr. Eklund spoke on health issues facing modern society with her presentation, Navigating Your Course to Wellness.

In this presentation, Dr. Eklund, a board certified family physician with a practice in Miami, Florida, covered health topics from obesity and heart disease to depression and stress.

‘We’re set up for acute stress, not chronic,’ stated Dr. Eklund. ‘Stress is necessary for our body – it provides us with the fight or flight instinct.’

However, it is when stress stays with us day after day that our bodies begin to break down, she explained. This can lead to weight gain.

‘Our body adjusts to stress by putting on fat. If a stressful situation goes on too long, our body stores fat for energy.’

While Dr. Eklund’s talk focused on weight maintenance or loss for a healthy lifestyle, Ms Thompson’s discussed the effects of smoking on heart disease.

‘Smoking is the single most preventable cause of disease and premature birth,’ declared Ms Thompson. ‘Half of all long-term smokers will die from tobacco use.’

Ms Thompson surprised many in the audience by announcing that lung cancer is found in two times the number of women as breast, larynx, oesophagus, mouth or bladder cancer.

The problem with second-hand smoke is a major one, Ms Thompson continued. ‘You don’t have to smoke to die.’ People who are exposed to smoke can develop emphysema, lung cancer and other smoking-related health problems.

‘We need to be advocates for smoke-free environments. Join the Cancer Society in their efforts. Push for legislation such as the Smoke-Free Air Act.’

The cost of smoking was a factor Ms Thompson focused on also.

‘It costs over $100 billion to treat smoking-related diseases,’ said Ms Thompson. ‘It costs the individual around $29,200 a year to smoke if they smoke one pack a day. What else could you buy for that money?’

Ms Thompson is the Director of Respiratory/Pulmonary Services at South Miami Hospital, a part of Baptist Health South Florida, one of the event’s main sponsors.

She provided several suggestions for cessation efforts, including educating children, distributing NRT (nicotine replacement therapy), telephone counselling services, in-hospital education and counselling, stop-smoking incentives, consumer education efforts and group therapy programmes.

Both speakers were extremely informative while managing to keep their audience fixated, and after the speeches a question and answer session was opened up to the audience.

The information provided by the Affair aimed to encourage the attendees to take charge of their health.

‘Let’s stop talking about losing weight and start talking about losing fat,’ said Dr. Eklund in her speech. Similarly, she encouraged guests to stop referring to their lifespan and start referring to their healthspan.

Our unhealthy lifestyles are causing premature aging and health problems, she said.

‘Our health currently starts going down at around 35 years old,’ Dr. Eklund explained. ‘The ideal lifestyle would have us living well until we are well into our senior years.’

Many get caught up in the expense of keeping themselves healthy, such as joining gyms or spending extra to buy organic produce. This was a point Dr. Eklund was keen to dismiss, and she left this message with the audience.

‘Heart disease is the number one killer of women. Making small lifestyle changes is the most cost-effective means of improving your health.’

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