One of the most important things you can do in maintaining your overall health is to "Know Your Numbers."
That was the theme of the annual Community Health and Wellness Fair, which took place Saturday in the Lee Medicine Building on the University of South Dakota campus.
The first two levels of the building were filled with booths that dispensed information and gave visitors a chance to have a variety of screenings done, including blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index, cholesterol and vision and hearing tests.
Mary Merrigan, director of public relations for Sanford Vermillion, which hosted the event, said getting the numbers from these and other tests is important for people to know what condition they are in health-wise.
"Once you know what your numbers are … if something should be found out today that is a little bit askew or far out of whack, that's the important thing to find out, and then to follow up with their primary physician and to check into what they need to do.
"Our biggest goal here is, if there are issues, for people to know what they are and to affect their health in a better way," Merrigan said.
Sanford wellness coordinator Carol Lavin said between 50 and 100 people take part in the screenings each year.
Once they have their results, they can make healthy changes to their diet and other health habits, she said.
This was one of the areas stressed in a cooking demonstration that was held at the fair, "Shake the Shaker," which informed visitors of how they can reduce their sodium intake.
"Americans typically consume about 3,400 mg of sodium a day," said Barb Kingsbury, dietary manager at Sanford Vermillion. "The recommendation for a healthy person is about 2,300 mg. It seeps into everything."
Kingsbury said her struggles with high blood pressure were alleviated when she moved to a low-sodium diet.
"I can tell you right now, that was not easy," she said.
There are some easy switches that can be made, such as using unsalted butter and unsalted ketchup, or using Mrs. Dash, lemon and lime juice or olive oil when cooking, Kingsbury said.
However, "labels can sometimes be really tricky," she said. "You've got to be really good at reading labels."
For example, one company markets a chicken broth it claims has 33 percent less sodium than its regular product, but which actually contains 60 mg more sodium per cup.
"Packaging can be very deceiving, so don't just grab this because it says 33 percent less," Kingsbury said.
Another popular attraction was the Community Blood Bank, which had a bus taking donations in the parking lot.
"We provide blood to the Sanford Vermillion Hospital, so all the blood that's donated today comes back to Sanford Vermillion for local use," said Community Blood Bank executive director Ken Versteeg.
Blood bank reps have attended the fair for the past five years, and collected more donations each year.
"The very first year we started doing this we collected about 25 units of blood," Versteeg said. "Now we see on the upwards of 40 to 50 people come out to donate at this event."
Each unit is equivalent to about a pint, he added.
The event comes at a good time for the blood bank – just prior to the long President's Day weekend.
"It's an opportunity for us to be able to have enough blood to get through that weekend," Verstreeg said.
He added that Saturday's turnout had been "fantastic."
"I definitely think we're going to see 40 to 50 people again," he said.
The fair typically has approximately 42 booths overall, said USD student health coordinator Rachel Svartoien.
"We're limited on space, so we try to keep it intimate with local vendors," she said.
Merrigan agreed, adding, "We went to the third floor one year, but we just decided it was easier to keep it on first and second."
Lavin said this intimacy creates a good environment for people to get their testing done.
"It's obviously inside, it's well-marked, but people can get such a variety of screenings in one place," she said. "It gives people a chance rather quickly and conveniently to know more about their health."
Merrigan said people could attend a demonstration and get all their necessary testing and information in about 90 minutes.
"But the nice thing about this set-up is, you can just pick and choose, do what you want, stay as long as you want," she said.
Versteeg said the Community Blood Bank definitely will be back next year.
"Of all the health fair events that we come to to do blood drives, this is the most impressive. The services that are offered here are far superior. It's just amazing for the community to have access to all of this in one building. It's fantastic," he said.