By Tim Leeds 

Residents share tea and women's health knowledge


A crowd of local residents came together Tuesday evening to share tea, healthy snacks and information on women's health at the Healthy Women's Tea Party at the Holiday Village Mall.

Danielle Golie, director of the Hill County Health Department, moderated the event, sponsored by Hill County Family Planning.

"Hopefully there will be enough interest to make this a yearly event, " she said.

Along with viewing 16 vendor displays and getting a chance to win door prizes drawn in between speakers, the audience listened to four presentations on women's health, given by Lexy Fisher, Blaine County Health Department Director Fran Hodgson and Drs. Suzanne Swietnicki and Margaret Dow.

Walking and running for health

Fisher gave a presentation, with a handout for the people, on starting a walking exercise program and how to upgrade that to running and crosstraining. She added that people should give an exercise program a try, even if they think it is too hard to start.

"We are all far more capable than we think we are, " she said.

Exercise, along with eating right, is key to losing weight and maintaining a desired weight, as well as having a healthy life, Fisher said.

She said some keys to starting a successful walking program include setting some achievable goals, with the exercisers rewarding themselves when they make that goal and setting a new goal.

Starting walking is easy, she added — it takes no equipment, doesn't cost anything and is easy to schedule.

One key is finding the right shoes, Fisher added, providing a fitting guide for people to use to find the right size and fit.

"Shoes can make a big difference, " she said.

Fisher said people should select their route, and should set a few routes, mixing it up to keep the exercising from becoming monotonous.

The times also can be mixed up, including splitting a day's walk into different sessions.

Fisher said finding a partner also is a key, and that also can be mixed up. An exerciser could walk with a spouse on some days, a son or daughter on another, and a friend at other times.

But, exercising every day is crucial, she said.

Once goals are met and the walking is becoming easier, the exerciser can start looking into running, and also doing other exercises such as swimming or using other equipment.

She said she and her husband, Havre High School cross country coach Kyle Fisher, are setting up a camp for children in July to get them started running. The camp will be for children in kindergarten through grade eight, with members of the high school team working along with the younger children.

Dealing with stress, finding success

Hodgson said women need to be proud of what they have accomplished in the last 100 years, citing statistics that in 1900 4 percent of the American work force was women. That number is now 46 percent.

"We have come a long way, babies, " Hodgson said.

But, she said, many other factors — including many women working one or more jobs out of the home while working as a homemaker as well — creates stress. While small amounts of stress are beneficial, long-term stress is one of the most damaging factors in a person's life, she said.

Women should combat that in a variety of ways, including being self-confident and self-compassionate as well as treating others with kindness and compassion, she said. Most people show more compassion toward their pets than they do themselves.

Exercise is a major component of physical and mental health, Hodgson said. Even if someone feels too tired to exercise, working out or walking or running for just a few minutes can reduce stress and restore balance both physically and emotionally.

Drinking enough water — at least eight glasses a day — is also a key, she said. Dehydration causes fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic mathematics and difficulty focusing, and is one of the most common causes of daytime fatigue.

Hodgson said an estimated 75 percent of Americans have chronic mild dehydration.

"Pretty scary statistics for a developed country where water is readily available from the tap or in a bottle, " she said.

Another key is eating regularly and properly, she said.

"Our bodies need to be constantly fueled to function efficiently, as does the mind, " Hodgson said, adding that skipping meals, especially breakfast, and eating unhealthy foods increases stress.

Women taking care of themselves will make their lives better, which will translate to better families and better communities, Hodgson said.

Eating healthy foods

Swietnicki talked about eating healthy foods, and the benefits that can bring.

She said Americans are beset by marketing that persuades them to eat food they should avoid. Fruits and vegetables are largely silent in grocery store aisles, while sugary breakfast cereals shout their nutritional value to the ceiling.

She said marketers long ago learned to court the center of the brain that persuades people to eat more. One center of the brain regulates what the body needs, and tells it when it is full and should stop eating.

Another, the addictive part of the brain, reacts to input by releasing dopamine, which teaches people to look for and seek out that input.

That includes high levels of sugar, salt and flavor intensifiers, she said. Marketing companies and manufacturers have been adding those items to food for generations to persuade people to buy their product.

A beef fajita at Chili's Restaurants contains 6,800 milligrams of sodium, Swietnicki said — the total daily recommended allowance is 2,500 milligrams.

She said many products marketed as healthy, low-fat, diet food, and so on, usually are nothing of the sort. Other additives make those food unhealthy — non-fat cream cheese is neither non-fat nor cream cheese, she said.

"Remember, when America went low-fat, it got fatter, " Swietnicki said.

Swietnicki recommended several books and authors to the group, including Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and other works, "The End of Overeating" by David Kessler.

Cervical health

Dow presented information on cervical health.

She said great strides have been made in fighting cervical cancer and other cervical problems, including fighting the cause of cervical cancer, human papillomavirus.

"We know that human papillomavirus is the culprit, " Dow said. "We can stamp it out. "

A key to that is all women getting vaccinated — and men as well, she said.

"As much as we love them, men are vectors (who transmit the virus) … and need to be vaccinated, " she said.

She said much work has been done to change recommendations on how often women need to have a Pap smear, and that invasive test may not be needed as often as women think.

The recommendations now are for women younger than 21 to not have Pap smears, although they still should have cervical examinations, Dow said. While women should consult with their doctors, if they are 21-30 and are in a long-term relationship, the recommendation is that they should have a test every two years, while women older than 30 who are in a long-term relationship should have the test every three years.

But, Dow added, that doesn't change how often women should go in for checkups and physicals — once a year, if not more often.


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