Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Get "PHAT" this Saturday at I'll Make Me a World in Iowa

By Dana Boone


Many African-American women are familiar with the acronym, which stands for pretty, hot and tempting.

But organizers of this Saturday's I'll Make Me a World in Iowa festival want the acronym to become much more meaningful -- Promoting Heart health Awareness Together. Heart disease and stroke are top killers of blacks, according to the American Heart Association.

"There is kind of a crisis in the African-American community when it comes to health," said Betty Andrews, the festival's executive director.

That's why the festival -- Iowa's big-scale celebration of black culture -- is collaborating with the association, Iowa Public Television and the John R. Grubb Community YMCA on a health fair called "Fat to PHAT." The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at the Polk County Convention Complex in Des Moines.

Andrews is hoping the health fair's catchy name and free soul food cookbook will draw black women and empower them to take better care of their families' health.

"We chose that term because it resonates within the African-American community," Andrews said. "Now we are also using it as a term for taking care of your health and your heart health."

The health fair includes free diabetes and blood pressure screenings. Nutrition and meal planning information will be available, along with information about the warning signs of stroke and heart attacks, she said.

"We're mothers, wives and sisters, and we sometimes forget that we are responsible for treating our body as a temple," Andrews said.

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of all Americans, according to the association. Nationally, the risk of stroke for blacks is twice that of all other ethnic groups, and high blood pressure affects nearly half of all blacks, according to the association. Blacks also are more likely to have diabetes and to be overweight and obese, which increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Shannon Rudolph, cultural health director for the association, will help festival-goers on Saturday learn more about stroke warning signs.

"Having a stroke is a scary thought," Rudolph said. "No one wants to think they're having a stroke."

Stroke warning signs include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg; sudden confusion; trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking; dizziness and sudden and severe headache, according to the association.

The treatment for stroke approved by the U.S. FDA is called tPA, which is a clot-buster that is administered within three hours of the onset of symptoms, Rudolph said.

"Unfortunately, a large segment of our population doesn't get there in time," said Rudolph.

That's why increasing awareness about strokes and heart health is so important, she said. She'll urge health fair participants to sign a stroke pledge, which states they'll become familiar with the risk factors and warning signs. It's also important that they teach their family members since strokes can affect people of all ages, Rudolph said.

This year's headliners on Saturday include actor Morris Chestnut, best known for his movie roles in "The Best Man," "Boyz n the Hood" and "Perfect Holiday," and the gospel group Trin-i-tee 5:7.

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