By Melissa Spellman
New Journal and Guide
Participants in the Norfolk Healthy Living Center’s Plant Based Cooking class completed its third week in the four-week course on January 25, 2024. The class is instructed by Dr. Olivia Newby of Primary Care Specialists. Their offices and HLC operations are located at 930 Majestic Avenue in Norfolk, VA near Norfolk State University. The course was created to promote healthy plant-based living and offer diabetes prevention education.
February is American Heart Health Month. February 2nd is Wear Red Day for woman’s heart health. Women and heart disease is a passion of Dr. Newby’s. When it comes to heart disease, Newby says, “Yes, gender matters! Black women and Latina women we have the highest risk.”
Six out of 10 people of color don’t even know they have heart disease and it’s the biggest risk to their health. The participants were met with several devastating realities about heart disease.
Newby stated that not only is race a factor, but gender plays a major role. Women of color are more likely to die of heart disease than any other ethnicity. Black women have a 40% likelihood of heart disease and Latina woman a 30% chance of heart disease compared to other races. 64% percent of women die with sudden coronary heart disease with no previous symptoms. Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men. Newby added that smoking puts your chronic ailments more at risk.
Most people know someone who has suffered a stroke. The doctor stated that stroke is the leading cause of death and major disability in the United States. Knowing the signs of a stroke is important. Symptoms can range from numbness, weakness, sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding speech, trouble seeing, dizziness, and sudden severe headaches. Newby pointed to the presentation screen, “This is the keyword I want you all to see ‘Preventable’. It’s treatable but we want to prevent it,” she asserted.
This week Dr. Newby’s discussion centered around making sure your risk factors for heart disease remain low or stay in a manageable place. “The number one reason people have heart disease is high blood pressure,” said Newby. She emphasized the importance of reading labels and taking note of the content of sodium and fats in the foods we eat. She stressed that there are things we can control like reading labels, watching our sodium intake, cholesterol, blood pressure are controllable. Things that are not controllable are our age, conditions we inherit, and our ethnicity. While a person’s age can’t be controlled, blood pressure can with increased physical activity.
In the class third week praise report Dr. Newby asked participants had anyone started moving more and the reports rained in. One participant reported, “I started going to the YMCA. Then I started walking around the job every day. When I have down time I just walk around the site.”
Dr. Newby praised him for his efforts and encouraged everyone to do the same. “I love that because you made time where you are. You didn’t say let me wait till I get to the gym. Exercise right where you are.”
She suggested participants time themselves when they walk. “If it takes you 15 minutes to walk that area then next time try to cut it down to 14 minutes,” she said. Newby says by timing yourself on how long it takes you to walk an area, once your body becomes accustomed to it and your weight stalls, you want to walk the same area in less time to increase weight loss.
This week participants had an A1C test performed. An A1C test is a simple blood test that measures a person’s average blood sugar levels over a three-month period. “If you are not a person with Diabetes and your A1C is 5.7 to 6.4 you have joined the group called pre-diabetes,” Newby explained. She said you don’t want to join that group, but if you do, now it becomes how do I get out of being pre-diabetic. Newby says to move away from pre-diabetic status, “That’s just diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.”
One lifestyle change is reading the food nutrition labels. Newby had the class review the nutrition facts from some of the food chains we have come to love. The class was shocked at the amount of sodium found in the food. The daily recommended serving size of sodium is 1500 mg total. However, the average burger from your favorite chain is 2800 mg of sodium not including fries or a drink. Newby said, “If you take nothing else from this class, you don’t shop without looking at that label.” The doctor posed the question where and when you are eating? Are you taking your medicine? Or are you blaming it on forgetfulness or being too busy?
The education portion of the class ended with Newby’s final thoughts “My words to you are, are you ready to get rid of the old habits of just eating or follow the new habits of lifestyle change.” She went on to say, “I tell patients it is not a matter of if, it becomes when for chronic problems.” She added that walking helps with stress and improves function. She urged the group to get two to three days of exercise and good sleep. “I buy energy through exercise; that is my way,” said Newby. The doctor closed saying, “As we age exercise improves our muscles and lung function and there is nothing like a good sleep. You don’t have to join a gym, you can walk wherever you are.”
The week three meal prepared by Chef Patricia Louis may be the class’s best meal yet. Participants made a spinach salad with apples, pecans, crasins, tomatoes, and red onion. The salad was topped with a made-from-scratch dressing of olive oil, vinegar, minced garlic, Dijon mustard, honey, and pepper. Next, the class sliced a sweet potato into fry sized pieces, lightly drizzled the fries with olive oil, sprinkling half with garlic powder, and the other half with cinnamon.
The sweet potatoes baked in the oven while the class grilled their plant-based burgers, seasoning the patties with garlic powder and pepper. The class sliced and grilled white onions to add extra flavor to the Beyond burger patties with an option of colby jack or vegan cheese. The burgers were placed on a toasted potato bun with a slice of cheese, grilled onions, and spinach leaves. Most of the class ate one burger and took the remainder of the meal to go. The take home ingredients this week were minced garlic, garlic powder, and cinnamon.
Husband-Wife Team Discuss Their Experience
After the class, husband and wife Marvin and Rita Hall, two participants and patients of Dr. Newby’s, discussed their experience in the plant-based cooking class thus far. Rita Hall shared she wanted to take the class, “because of health concerns. I am a patient of Dr. Newby’s. She told me that I was pre-diabetic, and my husband has hypertension and high cholesterol. She offered this class to me to learn some healthier ways to cook and eat.”
Ms. Hall said it was more helpful taking the class as a couple. “So now when I cook and feed it to him it is not some strange food, he is familiar with the new foods.” When asked about her favorite meal, she stated, “My favorite meal has been the burgers. Surprisingly this week we had the sweet potato fries and usually I don’t like them at the restaurants, but these were good.”
When questioned how he is enjoying the class Marvin Hall professed, “Man, I love it!” He replied, “My wife signed me up for the class. We are both patients of Dr. Newby. I figured let’s give it a shot and it has actually been a blessing.”
Mr. Hall has lost 10lbs so far. He says that learning the process of layering the flavors into your meal has destroyed the myth of eating healthy lacking taste. “I can definitely put a change into my lifestyle,” said Mr. Hall. Next week Marvin and Rita and all the participants enter the fourth session of the course and will cook their final recipe.
The class is free and open to the public. If you are interested in attending the Diabetes Prevention: Plant Based cooking class you can register for the next session at www.hlcnorfolk.com, call (757) 622-0542, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.