Makdim Health Symposium Highlights
Last week’s Health Awareness Event was a resounding success. Close to 1,000 people attended in person – with many more following the speeches and medical panel virtually – hearing about the importance of caring for one’s health and regular visits to a primary care physician.
The focus of the event was for all of us to take a step back and take responsibility – to ourselves, our families, and to the Ribono shel Olam, the Healer of all.
PREVENTION IS THE BEST CURE
Reb Yitzchok Stralberg, MC, recounted how we use the word ‘unfortunately’ when talking about health. “Speak to any Hatzalah member, any doctor, or anyone at the organizations dedicated to helping cholei Yisrael. They’ll all tell you that the number of young-to-middle age people in our community faced with severe illness is unprecedented.
The worst part is that so many of these unfortunate diagnoses are not acute – they didn’t suddenly show up. High blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, chronic heart disease, and strokes, are all conditions that are worsened by ignorance and neglect.”
That’s Makdim’s mission statement: To bring awareness around health and shake up the status quo of our complacent lives.
Don’t neglect your health! Spend half an hour at the doctor's office once or twice a year and know which conditions are hereditary. What is your A1C? What are your cholesterol levels? Don’t think that because you’re ‘only’ 35 or 40, you’re too young to be invested in your health.
AWARENESS CAN SAVE LIVES
The atmosphere turned somber when Reb Stralberg told of a personal anecdote: In February 2020 he woke up and suddenly felt excruciating dizziness and numbness on the entire left side of his body. His speech was slurred and his facial muscles became paralyzed. He remembered an EMT course he had taken years earlier and realized he was in the throes of a stroke.
Before he collapsed he barely managed to tell his wife to call Hatzalah and tell them he was experiencing a stroke. Months of rehab followed, where he had to relearn how to use every single one of his limbs.
The point that Reb Stralberg wanted to make, occurred the next day. His neurologist entered the room and asked what medication he was on to treat his diabetes. Utterly taken aback he stuttered, “I’m not a diabetic.”
His blood sugar levels were three times the amount of those of a healthy individual. The doctor shot back, “Are you surprised by what happened? You’re literally a walking timebomb and should be thankful you’re alive.”
CARING FOR YOUR HEALTH
Dr. Shimshi Zimmerman, Medical Director of Hatzalah New York, started the medical panel by asking the doctors about the importance of a primary care physician.
Dr. Eli Inzlicht, Medical Director at Premium Heath, explained that the role of a PCP is to get to know each patient personally and do basic testing. People of all ages need to build a relationship with a PCP since many health conditions can manifest at a young age.
Furthermore, a PCP will refer their patients to specialists when there are issues that require more specialized care.
When asked about hypertension (high blood pressure) and heart disease, Dr. David Sherman of Columbia Presbyterian explained that if a male family member under the age of 55 had a heart attack, you’re at greater risk of developing heart issues yourself. It’s important to be aware of your family history and get testing that may not be so routine for the general population.
Hypertension is known as the ‘silent killer’ since living with high blood pressure can go undetected for many years but will lead to complications. It’s therefore incumbent on everyone over the age of 35 to check their blood pressure regularly – at home and at the doctor’s office – and get familiar with their numbers and follow up with their PCP if they are elevated.
When asked about preventative screenings, Dr. Aaron Tokayer, Professor of Gastroenterology, started by highlighting the success of Makdim’s efforts in raising awareness for preventative testing. Over 1,000 people got screened in the past six months and 60% of those who got colonoscopy screenings had polyps found that, if left untreated, could have become cancerous.
Most people are aware that diabetes equals high blood sugar, but many don’t realize how much deeper it can go. Elevated sugar alerts us that someone might be pre-diabetic, but diabetes can cause vascular (blood vessel) problems that can affect our bodies in many ways – including heart issues, kidney failure, diabetic ulcers, and vision problems.
But all that, and more, can be prevented with regular screenings and lifestyle modifications.
BUSYNESS IS NOT AN EXCUSE
Reb Stralberg passionately implored the audience to take it upon themselves to visit the doctor at least once a year. He told those who excuse themselves with their busy lifestyle, to view it as one of the mitzvos we perform once a year: biur chametz, tashlich, and mishloach manos. No one forgets to do those mitzvos – they’re an absolute privilege!
Let’s all hold the mitzvah of venishmartem meod lenafshoseichem just as dear and make it a priority.
Schedule that doctor’s visit today!
Makdim is now working with PCP offices that will provide appointments during regular office hours and after hours, making it easier for everyone to schedule that important check-up – regardless of their schedule.
If you would like to schedule an appointment, please reach out to Makdim at makdim.org or 718-925-2943.