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For years you’ve gained healthy eating and diet advice from Dr. Ian Smith from VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club” reality show, in one of his many books on the subject or during the nationwide 50 Million Pound Challenge he initiated.

For years you’ve gained healthy eating and diet advice from Dr. Ian Smith from VH1’s “Celebrity Fit Club” reality show, in one of his many books on the subject or during the nationwide 50 Million Pound Challenge he initiated. Now, he’s in town to talk to the sickle cell community about the disease and the risks associated with iron overload. Most prevalent in African Americans, sickle cell is a hereditary blood disease in which protein that carries oxygen in the blood turns sickle-shaped and clogs blood vessels, causing extreme discomfort. Patients suffer from chronic pain episodes that can last for days. “Everyone needs to understand the connection between blood transfusions and sickle cell,” Smith told the Defender as he and the “Be Sickle Smart” national campaign gear up for a day-long Empowerment Rally this weekend in Chicago. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sickle cell disease affects an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 Americans. About 1 in 12 African Americans carry the sickle cell trait, which by itself is generally harmless, and the disease occurs in about 1 in every 500 African American births. In Chicago, more than 2,000 African-American residents live with the disease, according to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois. No cure exists. The “Be Sickle Smart” campaign aims to educate patients and the general public about the illness and another aspect associated with it, iron overload. Overload may occur when a patient has to have many blood transfusions, creating another set of complications for them. “An overload can lead to heart failure, diabetes, increased pain, sexual dysfunction, liver dysfunction, all kinds of problems. Sickle cell patients need to understand need to get screened for their iron levels and know what the their level is. A simple blood test can reveal that,” he said. On Saturday at the free event at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place, from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Smith will be on hand for interactive presentations and educational workshops for sickle cell patients. Attendees can also receive free blood tests to determine their iron overload risk. “It will be a full, empowering day. We’re trying to get the sickle cell community together to support each other,” Smith added. For more information, visit http://www.BeSickleSmart.com.

Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender.

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