Symposium gives women insight they consider valuable


The crowd mills around to the tables featuring information about women's health during the second annual Women and Wellness symposium, sponsored by North Florida Regional Healthcare on May 4, 2013, in Gainesville, Fla.

Elizabeth Hamilton / The Gainesville Sun
Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 7:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 7:23 p.m.

When Sonya Tang, 26, got a card from North Florida Regional Medical Center about its Women and Wellness Symposium, she immediately thought about her 46-year-old mother, who has high blood pressure and whose cholesterol is a bit high, but who walks for 45 minutes every day and is otherwise in good health.

Tang and her mother, Gail Traboulay, were among the mother-daughter pairings who attended Saturday’s symposium at Gainesville’s Hilton University of Florida Conference Center.

“I’m glad I came — this has given me a jolt to get back on stream,” Traboulay said.

It also made her realize that her high blood pressure of late might be premenopausal symptoms.

The sessions, which were geared toward women middle-aged and up, covered issues such as bone health and vitamin D and calcium supplements, heart and joint health, and breast reconstruction. About 140 women attended.

Tang and Traboulay attended the session on breast reconstruction. Although neither has been affected by breast cancer, Tang said it was good information to have — at the very least to know that, for women affected by the issue, “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dr. Anthony Agrios, the founder and senior provider of obstetrics and gynecology at the All About Women clinic, was one of several NFRMC physicians who led sessions on Saturday. In his open panel on gynecological issues, breast density and mammographic screening came up.

“Breast density is normal, particularly in younger women or women with bigger breasts,” Agrios explained. “It’s harder for a radiologist to read mammograms, and these women tend to have to go back (for a second reading), which often makes them panic.”

Dense breasts alone do not necessarily place women at higher risk of breast cancer, Agrios explained, but women with dense breasts who do get breast cancer tend to have more advanced forms of the disease — because of the greater difficulty in detection due to the density of their breasts.

All women should familiarize themselves with their own breast tissue through self-exams, and learn to recognize fibrocystic changes that typically occur after their 30s or 40s, Agrios continued, noting that lumps should be similar in size, and if they are asymmetrical, or if nipples change, that’s when women should consult a physician.

Agrios, who also spoke at last year’s inaugural symposium, said the event gives women a needed break from their busy lives. “Women are busier now than ever before. They don’t give enough time to taking care of themselves,” he said. “Focusing on their health will help with everything else.”

Agrios also said the event was a good forum for women to learn the right questions to ask their physicians.

One question that came up was how much vitamin D and calcium women should be supplementing their diets with to protect their bones. Vitamin D, found in foods such as salmon, tuna, cheese and egg yolks, helps the body absorb calcium, said Dr. Sandra Werbel, an endocrinologist at Accent Physicians in Gainesville. And calcium is found in milk, soy milk, fortified orange juice, green leafy vegetables and almonds, Werbel continued.

While food is the best source of both vitamin D and calcium, supplements of 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day and 400 to 800 international units of Vitamin D are recommended for women starting in their mid-20s until age 50, and after that, 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 800-1,000 international units of Vitamin D.

If you forego supplements and don’t have enough of these minerals in your diet, “Your body will pull (calcium) out of your bones,” Werbel said, adding that’s how diseases such as osteoporosis develop.

For Iva Margjoni, 21, Werbel’s talk was a familiar lesson. The University of Florida senior, who graduates Sunday with a nutrition degree, accompanied her mother, Raimonda, to the symposium.

Raimonda Margjoni, 49, said she was also familiar with the information on vitamin D and calcium, but that it was nice to hear it again since conflicting studies have posed some doubts on the necessary quantity of vitamin D and calcium intake.

“We have to pay attention because this affects us all long-term,” Raimonda Margjoni said. As for her daughter Iva, she has a head start, Margjoni continued.

“She’s naturally very cautious. This reinforces what she does already.”

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119, or kristine.crane@gvillesun.com.

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