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When it comes to health, awareness is key & free

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When Gaffney resident Brian Hipps read about Novant Health Gaffney Medical Center’s free health screening event, he knew it was a chance he couldn’t pass up.

“I just had a feeling my body wasn’t right,” Hipps said. “I didn’t have a primary care doctor or health insurance, so I thought I’d better take advantage of the opportunity to get checked out.”

Hipps, along with 59 others, joined Gaffney Medical Center staff Jan. 24 at the local YMCA to get screened for diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity—the three leading risk factors of heart disease and stroke. Through the screenings, Hipps learned that he had a high A1C (blood sugar) and high blood pressure.

“It was an eye-opener. I had no idea my blood sugar was so high,” Hipps said.

His screener, diabetes educator Rebecca Ledbetter, advised Hipps to see a doctor immediately. He did, and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

“It just goes to show the importance of this initiative,” Ledbetter said. “Reaching out to people where they are, in our communities—people who may not have the means to seek help on their own—it really does make a difference.”

Hipps is now getting the treatment and education he needs to manage his condition and adopt a healthy lifestyle. He’s been to see Ledbetter at Gaffney Medical Center for diabetes education and says he not only feels like she genuinely cares about his well-being, but that he’s learning a lot from her.

“Before the screening, I was eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and didn’t even think about it,” Hipps said. “Now Becky’s teaching me how to eat right and count my carbs. I’ve already lost 7.5 pounds since the screening.”

Hipps says that with his new knowledge, he is teaching his 87-year-old mother about blood sugar and healthy eating.

People like Hipps are at the heart of Novant Health’s community wellness initiative, launched in early January.

The initiative, which sponsors free health screenings like the one hosted by Gaffney Medical Center, targets obesity, prediabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure). The goal is to inspire an epidemic of wellness by raising awareness of three silent conditions that can have major impacts on your health.

“The power of community engagement and the purpose of the community wellness initiative is to inform, educate, and activate the citizens of the Novant Health footprint in managing their wellness,” said Ophelia Garmon-Brown, MD, and lead executive for the community wellness initiative at Novant Health.

“Prediabetes, obesity and high blood pressure are leading factors in two of the biggest killers in America: heart disease and stroke. Unfortunately, many adults are unaware that they have these conditions,” said Brian Yates, vice president of Gaffney Medical Center. “We want to raise awareness that people need to know their numbers so they can take action.”

The statistics surrounding these conditions are alarming: one out of every three Americans over age 20 has prediabetes; one in three Americans has hypertension; and more than one-third of American adults are considered obese. Novant Health is dedicated to lowering those numbers in our community and providing hope for a healthy future.

Hipps is optimistic, not only for himself, but for his family and friends.

“Now that I’m being taught how to eat right, I’m passing it along,” he said. “And now that I know what to do, I’m going to get better.”