City of Thomson employees recently enjoyed a healthful spaghetti dinner while learning how to better take care of themselves. Through a grant from the Georgia Municipal Association, the city regularly holds luncheons combined with health education classes.
The keynote speaker at the last lunch, held Wednesday, Feb. 17, was Dr. Mac Bowman, the head cardiologist at University Hospital in Augusta, and the head of the Augusta Heart Association.
Dr. Bowman, who hails from Thomson and is a graduate of Thomson High School, said it was good to be home.
"I live in Augusta, but I'm from Thomson, and I tell people all the time that Thomson is my home," he said.
Because he is a cardiovascular specialist, Dr. Bowman said a lot of what he sees can be prevented, and that's the message he had for Thomson's employees. He told them of a patient he was treating who had stopped taking his blood pressure medicine on his own which resulted in a stroke at an unusually young age.
"It hurt me, because it was imminently treatable," the doctor said with emotion. "He should have had a relationship with his doctor to feel comfortable telling if there is problems with his medications so the doctor could make adjustments."
Dr. Bowman talked a lot about numbers, making three points:
(1) know your blood pressure. It should always be 130/84 or less. If it isn't, Dr. Bowman said see a doctor immediately.
(2) Know your blood sugar. A fasting blood sugar should be less than 110.
Uncontrolled blood sugar affects the heart, Dr. Bowman said.
(3) Know the number zero. "That's the number of cigarettes that are good for you to smoke," he said, adding that nicotine squeezes the arteries, causing blood clot blockage.
(4) Know your cholesterol level. "It's important to know the good, the bad and the ugly," he explained. Saying the good cholesterol, or HDL, acts as a broom to sweep out the bad cholesterol, or LDL. Dr. Bowman stressed that cholesterol build up begins in the teen years.
"Everything you do on a routine, such as smoking, uncontrolled blood sugar, eating high fat meals, all make your arteries squeeze smaller, inhibiting blood flow to the brain, heart, genitals and legs," he said.
Dr. Bowman said if someone is having to stop doing what they normally do because of shortness of breath, experience a tightness in the chest, discomfort in the neck or armpits, they should see a doctor right away.
"Most of us say we are just getting old, or have indigestion, but these are all symptoms of heart attack," he said.
Dr. Bowman explained how the cost of daily medications and doctor visits is much lower than emergency room visits that include test, treatments and surgeries.
"You don't have to lead a sterile, hard, strict life to be heart-healthy. You just do common sense things," he said.
After his speech, Dr. Bowman answered questions from the audience, explaining that second-hand smoke and smokeless tobacco have the same affects on the heart as smoking, that purple grape juice is just as good as red wine for the heart, and when and how to check blood pressure and test cholesterol levels.
"He was wonderful," said Marion Crawford, a water department employee.
"I learned a lot from him. It was nice to be able to listen and learn without being embarrassed. Sometimes you feel dumb when you ask a question to your doctor. But according to him, there is no dumb question when it comes to your body."