Patient Story from Women at Heart
It Takes a Community: Palmetto Health Outreach Helps Women Feel Better
Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure-these are major health problems for women and too often, these are the ones women overlook.
Palmetto Health Community Health helps people get healthier through screenings, information sessions, and friendly support. Programs range from large-scale annual events, such as Women at Heart, to small support groups that meet more frequently. There are Palmetto Health programs to help you manage chronic problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure, quit smoking, or get you moving.
Tiffany Sullivan, Palmetto Health's director of COPA programs, says, "Palmetto Health is a leader in our community in cutting edge technology, patient safety and quality patient care, so it makes sense for us to be leaders in offering free community events to help our patients make healthy lifestyle choices."
Every year, thousands of people take advantage of Palmetto Health's community services. Some, like Janet Black, have come to think of Palmetto Health as a constant partner as they work to stay healthy.
When a diagnosis changes your life
When your doctor tells you that you have diabetes, it's a diagnosis that can change everything about your life. You have to learn how to monitor your blood sugar and manage your medications. You have to prick your finger, buy expensive supplies and rethink the way you eat. "You can't enjoy your favorite foods," Janet Black says.
Black found out she had diabetes five years ago. Palmetto Health's community programs have helped her in two important ways-by providing critical information about diabetes and by providing support and motivation.
One of Black's first steps was to enroll in a Palmetto Health lunch and learn series. Over the course of six sessions, nurses and dietitians helped her understand her disease, the treatment, and how she could eat and exercise to better manage her blood sugar.
Two years ago, Black attended Palmetto Health's Women at Heart exhibition. The event renewed her determination to lose weight and exercise. Like many other South Carolina women, Black has a family history, not just of diabetes, but of high blood pressure and heart disease, too.
Sullivan explains, "Women who eat a healthy diet and incorporate daily exercise into their routine have a much lower risk for chronic conditions like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Helping women learn to do this is the purpose of our Women at Heart event."
Controlling weight is at the heart of it
Black acknowledges that inactivity and a fondness for snacking had caused her to put on more weight than she'd like. After attending Women at Heart, Black started walking with a group of women from work. She lost 20 pounds-and was thrilled. But despite that accomplishment, keeping her weight under control remains a struggle.
"I lost 20 pounds. I gained 10 of them back. I'm determined to lose those 10 pounds, because that's when I felt good," she says. Black is getting herself on track by using techniques she learned through Women at Heart. "For example, I bring my lunch to work. That way, I'm not tempted to go out and eat French fries. French fries are my downfall," she says.
"Sixty-five percent of all South Carolina adults are overweight or obese," says Sullivan. "Palmetto Health offers community programs to encourage people to walk their way to better health, incorporate more physical activity and make healthy nutrition choices. When people are active and make healthy choices their health status improves."
Losing weight holds another promise for Black, the chance to stop giving herself insulin injections. "I'm tired of giving the pharmacy my money," she says. The cost of medical supplies combined with the use of needles for testing and insulin leave Black feeling stressed and depressed.
Stress, depression-and staying motivated
The stress of an ongoing condition is different from stress you experience with an acute illness that has a more distinct beginning-and end. People with chronic conditions not only face lifelong changes to diet and most likely, daily medications, but they also have to find ways to pay for the ongoing medical care. Sullivan says another reason Palmetto Health's community screenings are so valuable-not only do they help you monitor your health can make adjustments, but many of the community programs are low-cost or free.
Black says Palmetto Health's community programs also put her in touch with people who understand her problems and know how to help. "My family knows I have diabetes. They're quick to tell me stop being bitter and depressed. But having diabetes does make you depressed," she says. "You tend not to want to eat healthy when you get down. You get stressed out over little things. You notice tingling in your feet and you worry. Some days you don't want to stick yourself. You get tired of doing it."
It makes a huge difference, Black says, to stay on top of new information. "They have learned so much about diabetes in the five years since I was diagnosed. I'm thankful for the new information." She also uses Palmetto Health as a resource whenever a question crops up: "It's great to know that if I have something I need to ask, I can call."