Health fair focuses on women

DeKALB – Janis Blanco took her mother, Irene Hayes, to the “This One’s For the Girls” women’s health event at Kishwaukee Community Hospital for Hayes’ 92nd birthday on Friday.

“We saw it in the paper so I took off work and this is what we are doing,” Blanco said. “Then we are going to lunch afterward.”

After dressing in hats and sunglasses to have their photo taken at a photo booth, the Sycamore women visited many of the 18 tables set up around the lower level of the hospital, where medical professionals had displays about issues that pertained to women’s health. The third annual health fair for women, which ran on Friday and Saturday mornings, attracted about 1,200 women.

“I think this has been our most successful year,” said Theresa Komitas, senior marketing and public relations specialist at the hospital. “We have had women of all ages, and coming from all over.”

“We have a lot of mothers and daughters coming, and we also see groups of co-workers coming together,” Komitas said.

Attendees could enjoy snacks, giveaways, prizes, pampering, health screenings and education.

While some conditions, like menopause, cervical cancer and pregnancy affect women exclusively, many more conditions affect women differently than men.

Women aged 18 and older are disproportionately affected by certain chronic health conditions such as asthma, arthritis and depression, according the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website. Women are also more at risk for breast cancer, osteoporosis and lupus and face higher death rates from some heart conditions.

“Twice as many women die each year from stroke than from breast cancer,” said Laura Miley, a nurse in the hospital’s emergency room. She and fellow nurse Kristen Tindall explained that women may have different stroke symptoms than men, and that it is critical to seek medical attention at the first sign of a stroke.

Women’s heart attack and stroke symptoms may include sudden onset of face and limb pain, hiccups, nausea, general weakness, chest pain and shortness of breath.

The nurses also told attendees how to they can reduce their chance of getting a stroke.

“Eighty percent of strokes can be prevented by controlling your risk factors,” Tindall said.

Monica Hernandez of DeKalb brought both her daughter, Tania Hernandez of DeKalb, and her mother, Juana Parra of Sycamore, to the fair. Monica Hernandez said that the most useful thing she learned at the fair was how to perform a breast self-exam using anatomical models of breasts.

“They have samples of what you are supposed to feel for,” she said. “One feels like a pea and other ones feel kind of lumpy.”

She said that in one model, she could not feel anything until a nurse showed her exactly what to feel for, and where.

The three women plan to return next year.

Chris Laurent, certified health trainer with Unlimited Performance, manned a purse weigh-in table, where he advised many women to reduce the number of items that they carry in their purses.

“I say five pounds as a general rule, but for some people even three pounds is too much,” Laurent said. He recommended that in addition to lightening their purses, women use backpack-style purses or purses with cross-chest straps to even the weight between their shoulders. The worst thing to do is to carry a heavy purse on one shoulder.

“It changes your back, it changes your shoulders, it changes everything,” he said.

Dave Smith, a joint care coordinator at the hospital, talked about options for joint replacement.

“With joint replacement, we definitely see more women than men,” Smith said.

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