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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
When you look at your children, do you see a picture of a healthy, active child? The United States Pentagon just released a report stating “77% of young Americans would not qualify for military service without a waiver due to being overweight, using drugs, or having mental and physical health problems.” Even worse, this is a 6% increase from the previous study. No matter the wish of a parent or youth as to their desire for military service, this study paints a disturbing picture of the health of our youth in the United States. Where have things gone wrong and what could be some simple corrective actions?
Exercise is a word many people dislike. But reframing the chosen exercise activity as a family outing, such as a daily debriefing walk to discuss the day’s events or an indoor activity such as a basic yoga class at a local gym or via video at home, can be a fun, purposeful way to incorporate physical activity without it seeming like “exercise.” The point is to increase the activity level of not just the youth but also the parent or guardian.
Replacing sugar sweetened beverages with water or fruit-infused water is an easy way to decrease excessive caloric intake and provide better hydration. Water is a basic need of the body and performs many roles from joint health and nutrient delivery to cells to regulating body temperature and proper organ functions.
Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future research indicates that persons who frequently prepare meals at home eat healthier. Eating more fruits and vegetable with attention to healthier preparation methods can lead to better health outcomes over time.
It’s time to paint a new picture with you as the role model. Slowly adjusting to the adoption of a healthier lifestyle can take time. Speak openly with the youth in your life and let them help to decide the changes they feel they can make. Place this in writing using SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Revisit these goals and adjust them as needed. The reward over time could be a picture of health.
Did you know a heart-healthy diet is a brain-healthy diet? A diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants is not only great for reducing the risk for heart disease and diabetes, but also for boosting brain function. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), research has shown that people who follow a Mediterranean diet have a lower risk of developing dementia. A Mediterranean diet focuses on all the good food mentioned above and limits foods with added sugars, fewer portions of meat, and carbohydrates compared to a standard American diet.
Foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats slow down our brain function often causing us to be tired or feel sluggish. Eating these types of foods long-term may lead to lower cognitive function as well as increase the risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Physical activity is very critical for positive brain health. Research has shown that regular physical activity is beneficial for the brain because it may increase glucose metabolism, using glucose for fuel quickly, which could reduce the risk for cognitive disorders as you age. This is one reason it is important to strive for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Brisk walking is an example of moderate-intensity exercise, and it is generally cost-effective or free and does not require special equipment. So, while you may be walking to get ready for a vacation or an event, you are not only getting into physical shape but also boosting your cognitive function at the same time!
There are other ways besides diet and exercise that you can help boost your cognition. You may engage in activities such as sewing, quilting, reading, playing games, and socializing. These are great ways to challenge our brains while also having fun. Maybe you just learned someone you know is expecting a baby, so if you enjoy making blankets, make one for that person; maybe the local community center holds game nights – take a friend and go play some games! Try learning something new – if you enjoy dancing, try picking up a new style of dance or if you enjoy cooking, try different recipes or techniques in the kitchen. Trying something new can be fun and rewarding.
Managing stress is important when we think about our brain health. It is easy to get caught up in the stressors of daily life and if we do not have effective ways to manage this stress, it can take a toll on cognitive function. Taking a short walk, listening to music, reading a book, and talking with a friend can help manage stress. Engaging in meditation, prayer, or yoga can also help manage or reduce stress. It is important to take deep breaths and relax throughout the day so you can regain focus and tackle the issue(s) at hand. Stress is inevitable, so finding ways to manage or reduce the effects of stress on you can be beneficial to overall cognitive health.
Keeping our brains healthy is a life-long task. It is never too late to start working on our cognitive health. The brain is continually changing every day so add in healthy foods, exercise, and activities to help grow your brain positively or beneficially. It is important to find ways to manage stress that work for you; this helps with decision-making, problem-solving, and overall cognitive function. Take brain breaks throughout your day to de-stress and recharge.
Physical activity is vital for all individuals. Everyone can benefit from being physically active throughout their lives. Physical activity helps to reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Chronic conditions may be manageable by regular physical activity. Being active can help people maintain a healthy body weight as they age or help people lower their body weight, if needed, when paired with a healthy diet. Physical activity can help with balance, which reduces the risk of falling and lessens the risk of injury if a fall does occur.
How much physical activity is recommended? Some activity is better than none—small amounts of daily exercise like walking, folding laundry, grocery shopping, and gardening benefit health. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that individuals get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week. Moderate-intensity exercise increases heart and breath rate, but the person should still be able to maintain a conversation. Vigorous-intensity movement causes you to become out of breath and unable to hold an entire conversation. It is important to know that exercise is most beneficial spread throughout the week, for example, brisk walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Some people do not have time to set aside a 30-minute block during the day to walk and choose to do 10 minutes at a time three times a day, which counts for 30 minutes of exercise that day!
Physical activity can benefit overall health, including mental health. Grab a friend or two and plan to meet up a couple of times each week to socialize and exercise together. Group exercise can be a great way to maintain healthy relationships and physical health. Research indicates that people with an accountability partner tend to stick with their exercise goals longer than those who do not have an exercise partner. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans also recommend that adults should do at least two days per week of muscle-strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights and resistance training. You do not need fancy equipment; you can use food jars, cans of soup, milk jugs, etc., as your weights. Also, you can use your body weight for resistance training, such as push-ups, squats, and planks. When doing muscle-strengthening exercises, it is essential to work out all major muscle groups each week, including the legs, back, chest, and hips.
Always consult your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program. It is also essential to keep a few safety tips in mind: be aware of your surroundings, dress for the weather, stay hydrated, and ensure the area is well-lit to avoid fall or trip hazards.