The Cayman Heart Fund hosted an array of events over the weekend as part of the national “Heart Disease and Awareness Month.”
The focus of the weekend was to educate women and children about heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among women in the Cayman Islands.
Red Dress Gala
There were red dresses aplenty at the annual Red Dress Affair at the Ritz-Carlton on Friday night.
The gala kicked off with a women’s expo where free health information, fitness information, and blood pressure checks were available.
Former health minister Anthony Eden supported the event. “You know one of the problems here in Cayman, along with diabetes, is the problem with the heart. The more education and more information we can get for that for our people is the better off we are,” he said.
Dr. Sook Yin, one of the driving forces behind the Cayman Heart Fund, said, “This year the focus is not just on women, but also on children … We want to stress that heart health starts at a young age.”
“I was really shocked to hear that even babies are born obese … Birth weight has gone up by 200 grams,” she added.
Later on in the evening, Dr. Ana M. Viamonte Ros, director of medical staff development at Baptist International hospital, spoke about the global issue of childhood obesity and its prevalence in the Cayman Islands.
“Obesity is a grave oppressor threatening our children’s achievement of their highest potential. Currently, there are 30 per cent more obese than undernourished people worldwide,” said Dr. Ros.
“The Cayman Islands is not immune to this global issue,” she added. School entry screenings for the 2010/2011 school year showed 33.4 percent of children entering schools in Cayman were overweight or obese. “That’s over one-third of all of our children,” Dr. Ros said.
She outlined the four main factors behind childhood obesity: environment, sedentary lifestyle, heredity, and diet.
“More than 50 per cent of boys, and more than 60 per cent of girls in the Cayman Islands, spend three hours or more a day in sedentary activities,” she said.
Dr. Ros stressed that parents need to provide a healthy example for their children. “Learned behaviors from parents are a major contributor. Parents especially of those whose children are at risk of obesity at a young age should promote healthy foods and lifestyle choices in early development, even if it’s hard and they don’t like it.”
Heart Health Fair
More than 100 people signed up on Saturday to get their hearts checked at the Heart Fund’s free Health Fair, which was held at the Arts and Recreation Center in Camana Bay.
A slew of free health screenings were available, including blood glucose testing, blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, BMI, and waist measurement. Kids also had the chance to get their numbers checked and to learn about healthy habits.
The focus this year was on preventing childhood obesity.
Dr. Yin, who is the Cayman Heart Fund’s medical director, said, “We want to screen young people – that’s why we’ve done the screening on the kids. We weigh them, we measure their height and their BMI to see if they are obese … We are now hitting it from all angles, we are now starting from children so that the next generation won’t see so many obese results.” Research shows that four out of five obese children will become obese adults.
Sponsors and donors have stepped up to the plate to help provide the free health screenings, Dr. Yin said. “Through the generous donations and sponsorship to Cayman Heart Fund, we are able to acquire more cholesterol machines, so that we can move the process faster, so that the patients don’t need to fast so long,” she said.
Educational lectures were held throughout the day. “All the presenters that educated the doctors on Thursday night [at a cardiac symposium] are now presenting to the public so that they can understand the disease process,” said Dr. Yin.
“This year, we’re focusing on prevention because we do believe that if we can prevent the disease from forming, then we won’t have so many sick people,” she said.
Some people without medical insurance use the free health fair every year as their annual checkup. “People have been queuing up from around 7 a.m., and this event has now become an annual self-check up for a lot of people. Most people here who are getting screened don’t have medical insurance and this is their one check-up for the year,” said Dr. Yin.
The final activity of the heart health events is a women’s health expo, due to be held from 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday, March 25 at the Tabernacle Church in George Town. Certified menopausal practitioner, pharmacist, and international speaker Carolyn Whiskin will address the topics of hormones, heart, and health.