Ninety guests were in attendance recently at Saint Mary’s Regional Health System’s first “Live Well” Lunch and Learn seminar of 2009. Saint Mary’s will partner with several area physicians to continue this series of community wellness events, providing important information on current health topics. See pictures

Dr. Finley Turner, a family practice physician with Millard Henry Clinic, presented on “Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes,” discussing treatment and emphasizing preventive measures that can be taken to avoid metabolic syndrome, diabetes and associated risks and complications.

The term “metabolic syndrome” has been widely used in research to refer to a combination of related health factors that, when they appear together, create a higher risk for both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The value of the term is that it alerts both patient and physician that heart disease and diabetes, two seemingly disparate ailments, actually share common triggers.

According to Dr. Turner, metabolic syndrome is now a recognized diagnosis. By definition, a patient has the condition if he or she demonstrates three or more of these five risk factors:

• Abdominal obesity: For men, this is a waist size of 40 inches or greater; in women, a waist size of 35 inches or greater is an indicator of risk.
• Triglyceride level greater than 150 or being treated for high triglyceride levels.
• HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) of less than 40 in men; less than 50 in women.
• Blood pressure higher than 130/85, or treatment for high blood pressure.
• Fasting blood sugar greater than 100 mg/dL.

Most people with diabetes have health problems such as high blood pressure and cholesterol that increase one’s risk for heart disease and stroke. When combined with diabetes, these risk factors add up to big trouble. With diabetes, you are two to four times more likely to die of a heart attack. In fact, more than 65% of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke.

“The number one most important treatment for diabetes is lifestyle change,” said Turner, “which can also be the most difficult.”

Three major components of lifestyle changes are diet, exercise and mindset. While the diabetic diet has seen frequent changes in the past, it has now become rather standardized. The Mediterranean diet is a healthy option, and is high in fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole grains and olive oil. The DASH diet is similar, but with increased dairy and a more restricted sodium intake.

Exercise recommendations are at least 30 minutes, preferably 60 or more, of continuous or intermittent moderate activity (brisk walking) five times per week, preferably daily. “This does not mean walking around the block, visiting with the neighbors,” Turner explained, “or taking the dog out and stopping every 50 feet to check things out. It means being, and staying, active.”

Changing the way you think about how you live is key to maintaining better health, but is hard to do. “I can diet, and I can exercise,” said Turner, “but as I’ve proven to myself about a dozen times now, not for long. I kind of like the way I live, so changing my mindset becomes the most challenging part.”

Medications are an important part of treatment for diabetes and related complications, but Dr. Turner repeatedly emphasized that “With diabetes, as with metabolic syndrome, lifestyle changes will do you worlds more good than medications ever can.”

Clinicians and registered dietitians with the hospital and Saint Mary’s Outpatient Therapy Center (OPTC) were on hand as well. Sixty-two attendees took advantage of blood glucose screenings, nutritional information and samples provided by the OPTC prior to lunch and Dr. Turner’s presentation.

The Outpatient Therapy Center offers group classes which educate those with diabetes on how to best manage living with the disease. Specific topics such as healthy eating, monitoring blood sugars, staying active, coping with lifestyle changes, medication management, problem solving and reducing the risk of potential complications are discussed. For more information on the services provided at Saint Mary’s Outpatient Therapy Center, call 479-968-3733.

Those living with diabetes are also welcome to attend a free support group that meets on the second Tuesday of each month in Café 3 at Saint Mary’s Regional Health System. Attendance averages 25 to 30 people who come from all around the River Valley. The informal meetings provide information and education on successfully living with diabetes without major complications.

Saint Mary’s next “Live Well” lunch and learn is scheduled for April 8, and will offer information on colorectal cancer prevention and screening procedures. According to the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second most common cause of cancer death in the United States. When detected early, however, colorectal cancer is 90% curable.

Dr. Mike Bell, Dr. Craig Mizes and Dr. Vinh Nguyen, general surgeons with Millard Henry Clinic, will all take part in this upcoming seminar. Dr. Mizes will present on colorectal cancer and the colonoscopy procedure, followed by a question and answer session including Dr. Bell and Dr. Nguyen.

The event will begin at noon in the Saint Mary’s annex building. Admission is $5 and includes a healthy lunch and registration for door prizes. Reservations are required. For more information or to reserve your seat, please call 479-964-9355.