More Jackson County Opinions...

FEBRUARY 19, 2003


Column
By:Kerri Graffius
The Jackson Herald
February 19, 2003

Watch your hearts, young ladies
Nothing slaps you more in the gut than seeing a parent suffer.
Such was the case for me four years ago, when my father suffered a heart attack and needed bypass surgery. Following the half-day operation, in which his heart was stopped for several minutes, my father laid covered in plastic tubes, wiring and beeping devices in the intensive care unit. He needed those machines to keep him alive. And that was the first time I realized my parents wouldn’t always be with me.
I tried to reassure him that everything was OK, but my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. I tried not to cry or stare at the machines. I struggled just to make it away from his bedside before fainting.
I was a sophomore in college that year. And now, at the age of 24, my heart too has begun to slip away from its prime.
Despite seeing my father in that condition and knowing heart disease ran rampant on both sides of my family, I thought it wasn’t my problem, yet. Youth was on my side, I told myself. That was until my doctor told me recently that my heart wasn’t doing too great.
While not a serious problem yet, my doctor told me my cholesterol level is too high for someone my age (my blood pressure remains low and my heart beat is fine, however).
But I didn’t expect to begin a healthy heart routine before I turned 25. After all, I had just learned to eat healthier, exercise more frequently and lose more than 30 pounds in the past year. It was the first time I had a medical professional look at my heart (and family) history seriously to determine something more needed to be done.
I suppose this message isn’t directed at older men, or even middle-aged women, it’s meant for those like me—younger women. We may have seen our fathers suffer through similar heart conditions, seen our mothers monitor their blood pressure or seen our grandparents carefully watch the foods they eat to keep their cholesterol low, but we don’t do it ourselves, ladies. We still think heart disease is a problem that doesn’t affect too many women, especially younger ones. But it does.
For that reason I offer you a wake-up call: Watch you heart, young ladies.
And with February being American Heart Month, now is a good time to ask yourself about your heart’s health.
Perhaps the best first step on the road to improving your heart’s health is telling your doctor about your family’s heart history. Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, whoever about your family’s medical history. Ask about heart attacks, bypass surgeries, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, whatever—just ask. For me, all of those problems run somewhere through my genes.
Next, get a cholesterol test and discuss the results with a medical professional. You’d be surprised how affordable this valuable step can be. Most health departments offer the test at discounted costs (if not for free). If needed, your doctor will discuss a medical treatment than can lower cholesterol (and it doesn’t always mean taking medication).
One low-cost, long-term treatment my doctor gave me is taking “baby” aspirin every day. Be sure to ask your doctor before taking this daily regimen and never take more than 81 mlg. each day (doing so can increase your risk for stroke).
Also, look to substitute foods containing animal products with healthier alternatives. I love red meat, but I’m having to substitute more meals with fish and salads to compensate for the high cholesterol. And while I haven’t turned completely against my fast-food, sweet tooth indulgences, I am learning to replace some of those foods for better meals.
Finally, remember your heart is a muscle and needs regular exercise.
Although family history can steer how your heart will affect your life, it doesn’t necessarily have to control it (especially if you work on it at this young age). Unfortunately, my family history includes several deaths due to heart attacks around the age of 40.
My dad turned 60 last month. He called to tell me that he had beaten the odds.
Kerri Graffius is a reporter for MainStreet Newspapers. Her e-mail address is kerri@mainstreetnews.com. For more information about heart health, visit www.americanheart.org.

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Column
By: Bill Shipp
The Jackson Herald
February 19, 2003

On tweaking the flag referendum
As we contemplate the coming referendum on the state flag, Georgians should consider at least one historical note: Our past governors were not as determined as Sonny Perdue to keep their campaign pledges.
If both Talmadges, Marvin Griffin, Ernie Vandiver and even Jimmy Carter had lived up to their stump rhetoric, Georgia’s public school system would have collapsed, higher education would be in a shambles, “white only” signs would still be posted on restroom doors; and we would have the worst and most under funded infrastructure in the nation. Or the state would be permanently occupied by federal troops sent here to guarantee equal rights for all citizens.
Alas, all those governors saw the wisdom of backing down. They had the good sense to know that what fires up a crowd at election rallies is seldom what is best for the state. So for 50 years, Georgia has enjoyed an era of prosperity and racial healing without having to worry much that fire-breathing politicians really meant what they said.
Gov. Perdue’s plan to hold a vote to allow citizens to choose between two Confederate flags as their official banner changes that perception. In the eyes of many, keeping the Perdue pledge is a giant step backward for the state, as any newspaper reader or TV viewer can see. If the legislature goes along with Perdue, Georgia is in for a year of raucous street demonstrations, a probable economic boycott and an immeasurable amount of national and international ridicule. Whatever happens won’t be good for business.
Of course, the General Assembly leadership is likely to decide it has no choice but to comply with the governor’s command. Still, the legislature may wish to consider several alternatives to the Perdue plan, such as changing the date of the referendum.
Let’s weigh the pros and cons of possible primary dates:
March 2, 2004: As a sop to the business community, Perdue has proposed holding the flag vote at the same time as the presidential primary. He told Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce officials that the contested Democratic primary will draw a large turnout of blacks and moderate whites, who will vote against the Rebel battle flag. The business guys may have bought that scenario, but it is not likely to work.
The so-called flaggers — supporters of the Confederate cross — would turn out en masse for the primary and skew the outcome of the presidential vote.
A huge turnout of regular Democrats is unlikely since the national party has front-loaded the primary season with contests in larger states, rendering moot the outcome of the Georgia presidential contest. In addition, presidential contenders campaigning in Georgia are likely to try to outdo fellow candidate Al Sharpton in condemning a possible return to the Confederate emblem.
Besides, the legislature will be loath to deal with the referendum results in an election year.
July 20, 2004: Holding the flag vote concurrently with the state primary election might be more palatable to Democrats. Then they wouldn’t have to address the issue in the legislature until the post-election session of 2005.
On the other hand, Republicans may recoil at the idea of their July senatorial primary being dominated by single-issue flaggers. Although announced senatorial candidate Johnny Isakson, as a legislator, voted against changing the flag during the Miller administration, many flaggers are not likely to view the moderate Republican as their kind of guy at primary time.
Nov. 2, 2004: For the best turnout and most representative vote, holding the flag referendum on the day of the General Election makes the most sense.
In fact, such scheduling would probably aid Georgia Republican candidates across the board. But the vote would generate tons of negative publicity nationally and could work to the detriment of the Bush presidential ticket.
The General Assembly also may wish to revise the core idea of the Perdue referendum and consider other options, to wit:
1. Instead of the complicated two-tier vote proposed by the governor, the referendum would be designed as a simple one-question ballot on which voters could show their preference for any one of three flags — the present one, the Confederate cross or the pre-1956 flag, which is a knockoff of the Confederate national banner.
2. Frame the referendum as a vote on four flags, including the first Georgia flag — the state coat of arms on a field of blue. Perhaps that option would give voters at least one option without overt racial connotations.
3. Another idea: If no flag wins at least 50 percent of the vote in the first election, hold a runoff referendum to try to approach a consensus on the issue.
A thousand other ideas come to mind on how the referendum might be held, but none would avoid the inevitable injury this state will suffer with the reopening of a purely symbolic issue in a time of more stressful and certainly more substantive crises.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160 or by calling (770) 422-2543, e-mail: bshipp@bellsouth.net, Web address: http://www.billshipp.com.


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