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Heart disease and stroke are the number one and three killers of all Americans, but the risk is even greater in African-Americans, especially African-American women. In an effort to combat this disease, its risk factors and to make minority women aware of heart health, the American Heart Association Great Rivers Affiliate held their “Sister to Sister Seminar: Passport to Health” event Sept. 24 at the Wyndham Grand Hotel, Downtown.

MEET THE EXPERTS—from left: Dr. Shailen Woods, Dr. Jonathan Scott Strenio, Dr. Joon Sup Lee and Debbie Norrell, discuss the benefits of healthy living and answer health and wellness questions.

“It was a great event (and) it was a celebration of life and healthy living,” said Karen Colbert, director of communications for the association. “The people who attended and participated were interested in having and living a healthy lifestyle.”

Nearly 300 individuals attended the seminar, which gave tips and focused on heart and stroke health and wellness for minority women who were looking to live a healthier life.

Colbert said the association held the daylong seminar because heart disease and stroke are the diseases most prevalent among African-American women. Plus, minority women have the highest number of deaths in regards to these diseases.

The day began with health screenings, exhibits and various vendors, followed by attention getting workshops such as, “Dance to Your Own Beat!” facilitated by Gloria J. Rodriguez-Ransom, LPC, which discussed stress management and fun dance routines that can keep one healthy without feeling like their exercising; “Simple Cooking With Heart” with Brenda Parks and Sean Webber, which discussed how to cook healthy, low-cost, heart healthy meals that taste good; and “Celebrate You- Mind, Body and Spirit!” with Denise Riley-Ajanwachulu, BA, MS, which taught how to renew one’s mind and value the whole “You”.

Along with the workshops there was a “Meet the Experts” panel discussion with Dr. Joon Sup Lee, co-director of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute; Dr. Shailen Woods, assistant professor with the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, UPMC; Dr. Jonathan Scott Strenio, senior medical director, UPMC; and Debbie Norrell, New Pittsburgh Courier lifestyle columnist. The panel gave information and answered health and wellness questions.

While all the activities of the day made the event a success, Colbert said the highlight of the seminar was the “Celebrate Women Fashion Show” with Honorary Chair Candi-Castleberry Singleton, emceed by Debbie Norrell and presented by Demearia Boccella. The show included a presentation called “ESSENCE 25” by Atiya Adbelmalik Johnson, RN, BSN and models of all generations, from age 6 and up.

Colbert said a challenge was issued to all who attended and participated in the seminar to stay in touch, so that the association can see how people are doing with their healthy living.

Many of the day’s activities and messages were geared toward adult women, but Colbert said there was also a message presented on what can be done to help stop childhood obesity. She said, “Children emulate their parents and their lifestyles.” For example, if parents tell their children to be active, but just see their parents not being active, they are less likely to take their words seriously. “Healthy, active children grow-up to be healthy, active adults,” she said.

While Colbert said the American Heart Association did get the turnout and the positive feedback that they wanted, the organization hopes to see more guests there next year.

“The combination of wonderful speakers, great workshops and the messages-it was a great mix. The energy in the room was wonderful. We would just like to see more people attend and be exposed to the message (of healthy living),” Colbert said.

(Visit http://www.heart.org.)

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