April 29, 2016The College of Community Health Sciences is continuing its Mini Medical School program—a lecture series for The University of Alabama’s OLLI program—by beginning in April with two CCHS faculty. Harriet Myers, assistant dean for Medical Student Education and clinical psychologist at the College’s University Medical Center, presented on handling stress and the chronic effects of too much stress. Suzanne Henson, registered dietitian in Family Medicine, provided a cooking demonstration and recipes for two healthy dishes. The Mini Medical School Program provides an opportunity for adults and community learners to explore trends in medicine and health, and the lectures by CCHS faculty offer important information about issues and advances in medicine and research. OLLI, short for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, is a member-led program catering to those aged 50 years and older and offers educational courses as well as field trips, socials, special events and travel. Myers presented her lecture “Stress and Illness” on April 19. Some side effects of stress, like a headache, can be felt immediately, she said. But too much stress over a long period of time can have chronic health side effects, including difficulty sleeping, an upset stomach, high blood pressure, sexual and reproductive issues and a weaker immune system. Myers said that mindfulness can be used to combat stress on an “hour-by-hour, moment-by-moment basis.” She provided tips for practicing mindfulness through breathing exercises as well as through calming, “judgment-free” thoughts. “The mind, when not actively solving a problem, is constantly criticizing itself or others,” she said. “Practicing mindfulness is a change in the habitual, automatic way the brain works.” Henson provided a cooking demonstration for participants on April 26. The first recipe she demonstrated was a pasta with spicy peanut sauce. She suggested using protein-fortified pasta, as older patients often need more protein in their diets. And she also suggested modifications for participants with arthritis, such as using pre-sliced frozen vegetables. She also provided a dessert of fresh strawberries and key lime yogurt flavored with a bit of coconut oil. The dessert had a low amount of sugar, she said.