Let’s Go Walking – Celebrate National Walking Day – April 3, 2024

Let’s Go Walking – Celebrate National Walking Day – April 3, 2024

Let’s go walking on April 3, 2024, to celebrate National Walking Day. Walking is one of the best ways to get in our daily exercise with numerous health benefits.   

Research has shown that walking at a moderate pace at least 150 minutes a week can help you:

  • Think better, feel better, and sleep better
  • Reduce your risk of serious diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and several types of cancer
  • Improve your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels
  • Increase your energy and stamina
  • Improve your mental and emotional well-being and reduce your risk of depression
  • Improve memory and reduce your risk of dementia
  • Boost bone strength and reduce your risk of osteoporosis
  • Prevent weight gain

With the benefits of walking listed above, why would you not want to start walking every day for your overall health?

The American Heart Association recommends swapping 30 minutes of sitting with movement. Walking is a great way to accomplish this goal. Walking for 30 minutes can be done during breaks at work, parking farther away from an entrance, taking the stairs, walking with family and/or friends, walking the dog, and chatting on the phone as you walk. The daily 30 minutes of walking can be done all at once or in intervals of 10 minutes at a time. This makes reaching your daily walking goal even easier.

Let’s go walking.

Let’s celebrate National Walking Day every day by purposely taking a walk and remembering the health benefits you are receiving while doing so. So, get up and get moving, and walk for your health!

Sources:

American Heart Association: www.heart.org

University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Nebraska Extension. UNL FOOD: https://food.unl.edu/

 

Stress Around the Clock

Stress Around the Clock

By definition, catastrophic events, job loss, divorce, and death of a loved one are extremely stressful, but these situations are infrequent. What about those day-to-day stressors you face all the time? Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reports a third of American workers who were surveyed are concerned about mental health.

The Centers for Disease Control National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health states the number one cause of chronic stress is the workplace.  Accordingly, 120,000 people die from work-related stress yearly. Not only are we busier, but we are working longer hours.

All the hard work adds up to stress and too much stress results in illness. It is important to develop some quick ways to defuse stress. It’s best to develop some of the skills before stressful situations occur.

Too much stress can impact your health. Defuse stress before it builds. Photo credit: Adobe Stock

The Big Squeeze – There is a direct link between problems at work and stress-related illness, especially when it comes to unwelcome change. This form of work stress is sometimes referred to as the FUD factor: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. It is usually linked to the employees’ businesses or corporations that are undergoing change. Experts say you should first separate the things you can change from the things you cannot.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions on how to deal with stressful situations with minimal anxiety.

Co-Workers Stress – Situations involving others are always potentially stressful. Consider your options. Can you move your workstation? Can you reduce office interactions with people who upset you? Sometimes you need to turn a negative into a positive. Would more open communication alleviate some problems?

The Weighting Game – Gaining weight is often both a stressor and a symptom of stress. It is easy to appease your stress with overeating. Instead of reaching for food, reach for a book or cultivate a hobby. Keep low-cal snacks like carrot sticks or air-popped popcorn handy.

Fitness Guilt – First, give up the all-or-nothing attitude you may have cultivated. You would like to be healthier. You don’t need to train for the Olympics. Don’t look at exercising as another task you need to get done; do something you enjoy. Instead of hitting the gym, try dancing, biking, or swimming.

Sleepless but Superwoman – Called the “silent epidemic of modern time,” lack of sleep is often the result of the Superwoman syndrome, in which a person not only thinks she can do everything but feels responsible for everything. Stress and sleeplessness feed on one another. A number of studies have shown that stress reduces the time spent in deep sleep, which increase one’s stress level. One result of stressful sleeplessness is a reduction in the effectiveness of the immune system.

Unforeseen Events – Flat tire? Plumbing problems? Sick child? First, realize this isn’t going to last forever. Be prepared. Work out a plan “B” for anything that worries you. You now have a plan of action if you need one.

Latchkey Anxiety – Accept the reality that you can’t be everywhere. Next, try to establish some kind of safety net that could relieve your anxiety.

Recognize your stressors and take action to control your stress.

National Kidney Month, March 2024

National Kidney Month, March 2024

Did you know that keeping your kidneys healthy has a positive effect on your heart?   Kidneys are on the left and right sides of the spine and the backside of the stomach. The kidneys are no longer than 5 inches, and both have a big job when it comes to keeping the body synchronized. Kidneys have many responsibilities, such as monitoring blood pressure, constructing healthy bones, equalizing pH levels, filtering blood, and contributing body energy.

It is imperative to keep both the heart and kidneys healthy by exercising, getting tested for heart disease, consuming a healthy diet, watching cholesterol levels, and stopping tobacco use.  Researchers state that 50% percent of Americans between the ages of 30-49 will develop kidney disease in their lifetime.

In my first week at my job with UF/IFAS Extension Service, I was diagnosed with the “famous” kidney stones.  In June, I had three surgeries to help remove the kidney stones.  Before this happened, I was not knowledgeable about my body and following a healthy liquid diet.  It is imperative to find a family practice to stay current with yearly checkups.

Recovering after surgery to remove kidney stones. (Photo source: Gretchen Thornton, UF/IFAS Extension)

March is National Kidney Month.  The goal is to encourage people to support kidney disease research and promote kidney safety and health.  Kidney Disease is symbolized by green, so purchase green ribbons, green waistbands, or green magnets from a Kidney Disease Awareness partner during March. If anyone wants to observe National Kidney Month, they can join the organ donor registry, donate to a kidney non-profit, and keep their kidneys healthy.

You can also find more information at the National Kidney Foundation of Florida.

More information and Reference:

FSHN16-9/FS287: Chronic Kidney Disease: Potassium and Your Diet (ufl.edu)

National Kidney Foundation of Florida (kidneyfl.org)

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

Healthy Habits

Healthy Habits

We are well on our way into the new year, so that means you have kept up with your new year’s resolutions, right? Most individuals begin the new year with a resolution that they are going to participate in healthier habits, whether that be eating right, drinking more water, or exercising regularly. After the first few weeks, it can be hard to keep yourself on track. I know that I tend to fall short when I make meal and snack choices. Follow along below to learn more about why it is important to make healthy choices, as well as how to keep up with these healthy habits! 

Why should I make healthy choices? 

That is a great question! As a busy mom of two, I am always trying to balance work, school, family, and our social calendar. Your eating habits can contribute to physical movement, sleep, health, energy levels, and education. I can tell a large, positive difference in my overall attitude, energy levels, and sleep when I am making healthier choices. This is not something that someone can force upon you. Only you can make the decision to make these changes.

When you say healthy choices, what does that mean? 

This does not mean “diet” or that you cannot have the cookies or ice cream. Busy people don’t have a lot of time to prepare and eat healthy meals. It can be helpful to have a quick list of ideas to maintain healthy eating. It is important for you to balance your meals. Consider eating at least 3 of the following every day:  dairy, fruit, grains, healthy fats, proteins, or vegetables. Check out MyPlate to learn all about healthy eating habits, food groups, and how to shape your meals to you. Foods in moderation are okay but try to not overindulge.

Some high protein breakfast ideas:

  • Boil eggs at the beginning of the week and offer them with a low-sugar, high-protein cereal, and an apple to go. 
  • Make breakfast burritos filled with scrambled eggs, cheese, chicken, or beef on a Sunday and freeze them. 
  • An egg sandwich, a cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit, and peanut butter on wholegrain toast can all be eaten on the way to school.

If I keep junk food in the house, I tend to eat it. I always make a point to keep healthy snack options available rather than boxes of junk food. Healthy snack options at home include fruits, vegetables, and healthier beverages. Soda is high in sugar, so to help cut the sugar, I keep water, milk, and pure fruit juice in the fridge. (NOTE: Fruit juices contain natural sugars, so they should also be consumed in moderation.) It is easy for me to make those choices since I am the adult that goes grocery shopping. 

Ideas for healthier alternatives:

  • Instead of fried chicken, try baked or grilled chicken.
  • Instead of potato chips, try baked vegetable chips or nuts. 
  • Craving something crunchy? Try carrots or celery.
  • Craving something sweet? Try vanilla Greek yogurt with some fresh fruit.
  • Craving something salty? Try popcorn or edamame.  

On top of eating from different food groups, cut down on fats or sugars and remember to drink lots of water. Your body is unable to continue functioning properly without fluids. Staying hydrated may seem like a difficult task, but it is extremely important for us to stay hydrated for optimal health and performance throughout the day. Drinking enough water each day is crucial for many reasons: to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood. 

What about exercise? 

two people walking their dog

It is extremely easy to come up with excuses as to why you cannot exercise.

  • I don’t have time.
  • It costs too much.
  • I don’t like physical activity. 
  • I can’t do this by myself. 

Your new healthy habits should be made a priority. If you cannot take care of yourself, then you will not be able to take care of others. Physical exercise does not always have to be drastic. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking an extra block to work or around the neighborhood, or standing up instead of sitting.

How do I hold myself accountable?

Accountability for your new healthy habits can come in all shapes and sizes. The most helpful way that I have found is tracking my progress. This helps me find strengths, areas I can improve on, and helps me stay on track. You can record what you ate, how much water you drank, as well as any activity you performed. Try record keeping on an app, online, or the old-fashioned way – with pen and paper. There are several apps for your phones and websites online that will let you tailor your calorie and physical activity plans to reach your personal goals within a specific time period.

Sources:

https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/what-is-myplate

https://www.scripps.org/news_items/6630-6-simple-ways-to-stay-hydrated

https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diet-nutrition/changing-habits-better-health

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/the-importance-of-hydration/

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

National Kidney Month, March 2024

Healthy Teeth, Healthier Body

October is National Dental Hygiene Month. Maintaining good dental hygiene is not only essential for a bright smile but also for overall health. Poor oral health can lead to various dental issues, including cavities, gum disease, and even other health problems throughout the body. Fortunately, there are several simple yet effective ways to ensure your teeth and gums stay healthy.  

toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss
A regular regimen of proper brushing, flossing, and rinsing can help keep teeth healthy and promote overall better health. (Source: Samantha Kennedy, UF/IFAS)

The cornerstone of any effective dental hygiene routine is regular brushing. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth at least twice a day, ideally in the morning and before bedtime. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque, food particles, and bacteria from your teeth and gums. Brushing not only keeps your breath fresh but also prevents the buildup of harmful plaque that can lead to cavities and gum disease. 

Be sure to brush properly for the most benefit. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums and use gentle circular motions to clean all surfaces of your teeth. Do not forget to brush your tongue as well to remove bacteria that can cause bad breath. 

While brushing is crucial, it cannot reach all the areas between your teeth and along the gumline. That is where flossing comes in. Dental floss helps remove trapped food particles and plaque from these hard-to-reach places. Make it a habit to floss at least once a day, ideally before bedtime. Use a gentle back-and-forth motion and be careful not to snap the floss against your gums, as this can cause injury. 

If traditional flossing is challenging, consider using floss picks or interdental brushes, which can be more convenient and just as effective. 

Mouthwash and antiseptic rinses can be valuable additions to your dental hygiene routine. These products can help kill bacteria, reduce plaque buildup, and freshen your breath. Look for mouthwashes and rinses that contain fluoride for added protection against tooth decay. 

Please keep in mind, however, that mouthwash is not an adequate substitute for proper brushing. It’s essential to use these products as a complement to, not a replacement for, regular brushing and flossing. Rinses should be swished around your mouth for the recommended time on the label and then spit out. Avoid swallowing them, as they may contain ingredients that are not meant to be ingested. 

What you eat can significantly impact your dental health. A diet rich in sugary and acidic foods can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. Limit your consumption of candies, soda, and other sugary snacks, and opt for healthier alternatives like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

Calcium-rich foods like dairy products, leafy greens, and almonds can help strengthen your teeth. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day also aids in rinsing away food particles and maintaining optimal saliva production, which is crucial for neutralizing acids and protecting your teeth. 

Even with a diligent home dental care routine, regular visits to the dentist are crucial for maintaining good dental hygiene. Dentists can detect early signs of dental issues and provide professional cleanings to remove stubborn plaque and tartar. Aim to see the dentist at least every six months or as recommended by your oral healthcare provider. These visits can prevent minor issues from turning into major dental problems and ensure your smile stays healthy and bright. 

Maintaining good dental hygiene is not a difficult task, but it requires consistency and diligence. A healthy smile goes beyond aesthetics; it is an essential part of overall well-being. So, make dental hygiene a priority in your daily routine, and enjoy the benefits of a beautiful and healthy smile for years to come. 

An Equal Opportunity Institution. 

National Apple Month

National Apple Month

Summer is coming to a close, and Fall is in the air. What better way to kick off the Fall season than by bobbing for a deep red, bright green, or yellow apple? Currently, there are over 2,500 varieties of apples grown in the United States, and 7,500 varieties grown throughout the world. Apples are also grown in all 50 states. That is a lot of apples to celebrate throughout the month of October!

Photo source: Claire Davis, UF/IFAS Extension

Have you ever heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? This was something that I was told throughout my childhood. I did not believe that an apple a day would keep me healthy and away from the doctor’s office. Now I understand that the saying is a tribute to the apple’s nutritional value and its health benefits. Per the USDA, an apple is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C!

Fiber affects the rate of digestion of foods, the absorption of nutrients, and the movement of waste products (stool) through the colon. It also provides a substrate for beneficial intestinal bacteria (Cornell). Vitamin C supports your body’s health by forming collagen used to make skin, tendons, and blood vessels. Vitamin C also helps heal wounds, repair or maintain bones and teeth, and helps absorb iron (Medline Plus). It is best to eat the apple with the skin on, because the skin contains fiber and right under it is most of the vitamin C. One medium sized apple, about 2.5 inches in diameter, has a total calorie count of about 80 calories.

Apples are a great fruit to add to our diet! Check out a few ideas below on easy ways to add them in.

Photo source: Claire Davis, UF/IFAS Extension
  • Apples chopped up into bite size pieces taste great mixed in with a salad.
  • Mix up a yogurt dip using yogurt, cinnamon, and vanilla, to dip apple slices in. Or try spreading peanut butter over apple slices.
  • Add a peeled apple into a smoothie for added nutrients.

If you are not convinced yet, consider this. Apples are delicious, easy to carry around for a snack, low in calories, and can be refreshing on a hot day! With the hundreds of varieties available, there is an apple to suit almost anyone’s taste. Apples can be sweet, tart, crisp, crunchy, soft, or mushy, however you like them. Try an apple today!  

Fiber, digestion, and health – Cornell University. (n.d.). https://health.cornell.edu/sites/health/files/pdf-library/fiber-digestion-health.pdf

Food data Central Search Results. FoodData Central. (2019, April 1). https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171688/nutrients

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2023, January 19). Vitamin C: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002404.htm