Matters of the Heart
WSSU takes health project to Piedmont Park
(pictured above: Hazel Neely, president of the Piedmont Park Resident Council, is among the participants in Saving One Sister At a Time.)
“Saving One Sister At a Time” was looking to do just that on Saturday, June 7 when the heart disease-fighting project hosted a slew of community activities at Piedmont Park to drum up interest.
Winston-Salem State University Nursing Professor Wanda Lawrence developed Saving One Sister At a Time (SOSAT). Initially, the program will consist of a seven week program for Piedmont Park women in which they’ll exercise with a trainer, receive nutrition and heart disease preventive information and learn about risk factors and symptoms of heart attacks.
WSSU is hoping that 20 Piedmont Park women sign-on. The Community Day was held to attract participants. Mr. Bill’s Productions spun tunes as kids enjoyed hula-hooping, bean bag tossing and other games. Free food was offered to women who volunteered to take part in heart health-related activities, including a blood pressure check at the WSSU Rams Know H.O.W. mobile health clinic and viewing a video about heart attacks.
“I’m hoping today that we can educate several women, as many as possible, on the risk factors of heart attack, what they can do to try to prevent heart attack,” said Lawrence, who launched SOSAT after conducting focus groups with women in Forsyth and Guilford counties who had had heart attacks. She found most were unaware they were having heart attacks until after the fact. Some of them, like Linda Flowers, shared their story in the video, which, like SOSAT, was created by Lawrence and funded by a WSSU grant.
“I was blessed to not have the massive heart attack I was threatening to have. I was blessed, now that I know what it was, I will never ignore my signs again,” Flowers says in the video, which also outlines why heart disease in women can be hard to detect.
“The problem among women is that manifestations of the signs and symptoms of heart attacks are very subtle. It’s not the normal chest pains, but could be the feeling of being very, very tired, and this feeling can sometime go on for days,” Lawrence explains in the video. “(Symptoms could also include) heartburn, nausea, sometimes just pain in the jaw, sometimes pain in the back, pain in the abdomen. So the manifestations are so different that many times we ignore them and we end up having a heart attack.”
The morning portion of Community Day attracted few women. Organizers believed the televised memorial for Dr. Maya Angelou kept many inside of their apartments. By the end of the event, though, about 40 adults attended, with 12 women signing up for SOSAT. Lawrence hopes to fill the remaining slots soon.
Hazel Neely, president of the Piedmont Park Residents’ Council, signed-up. Though her heart has always checked out fine, Neely has diabetes, which can increase her chances of heart disease. She thinks SOSAT will be beneficial to her and her fellow residents.
“It’s a way to bring awareness to some of the diseases that are happening in our community, the African American-based communities,” she said.
Amanda Gales was one of the first women to sign up. The mother of two adult children and a 14-year Piedmont Park resident, Gales said her doctor has concerns about her blood pressure, so learning about heart health is something that’s especially relevant to her now. She said initiatives like SOSAT are much needed in Piedmont Park, a large public housing community near Liberty and 25th streets.
“They need to come more often,” she said. “You learn a lot of stuff and they enlighten you on things … a lot of people who don’t go to the doctor, they need to be here so they can learn some things.”
Personal trainer Charles Karns will lead the woman of SOSAT in exercise routines. Women make up half of the clientele in his Charles in Charge personal training company because, he believes, women are more likely to ask for help with health issues. He said that’s a good thing since exercise is good for the heart.
“Exercise is medicine for a lot of things,” he said.
Lawrence said after the initial sessions, she hopes to expand the program beyond Piedmont Park.
“In the future, we’re hoping to reach as many African American women in Forsyth County as possible to let them know signs and symptoms so hopefully they can start reducing heart attacks,” she said.