Nutrition and Health 

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February is American Heart Month

Melissa Cotton, County Engagement Specialist in Nutrition and Health Education, University of Missouri Extension

 

Promoting heart health is greatly important, as heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every 1 in 4 deaths is a result of heart disease. Heart disease includes many conditions that affect the cardiovascular system. Three major risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking cigarettes. Developing cardiovascular disease is preventable if we take hold of the risk factors within our control. By adopting and maintaining certain lifestyle behaviors, we can lower our risk of developing heart disease. Here are a list of some of the healthy habits we should focus on.

Healthy Eating – choose more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains. Limit fatty meats and select leaner options instead. Cut down on salt and added sugar. By preparing most meals at home, you are more likely to be successful meeting these goals. Many pre-packaged and restaurant foods are packed with extra sugar, sodium, fat, and calories.

Physical Activity – Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. That breaks down to about 30 minutes of activity on most days. Weight maintenance and lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels are all benefits of increased physical activity.

Stress Management – Keep stress in check by practicing relaxation and mindfulness techniques. Make sure to take time for socializing with friends and family. In addition, try to get 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Stop the Use of Tobacco Products – Cigarette smoke greatly increases your risk of heart disease and many other poor health outcomes. Ask your doctor about smoking cessation programs in your area.

Practice Moderation – Limit the use of alcohol and caffeine. Both can dehydrate the body, which is harmful to the heart. Men should limit alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day. Women should have only one.

Some risk factors like age, gender, ethnicity, and family history are outside of our control. You can better understand your risk by discussing these matters with your health care provider.

The good news is by following a healthy lifestyle you will also reduce your risk of developing other serious chronic conditions like diabetes. This February, identify a heart-healthy behavior that you could improve on. Even a small change can help you reduce your risk for heart disease or help you manage and existing condition.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 6 tips to keep your heart healthy.  Retrieved February 8, 2019, from    https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/pdf/HeartHealth-H.pdf

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Preventing heart disease: Healthy living habits. Retrieved on February 8, 2019, from         https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/healthy_living.htm

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (2018). Heart Health Tips for Men. Retrieved on  February 8, 2019, from https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/heart-and-cardiovascular-health/heart-health-tips-for-men

Harvard Health Publishing. (2019). Heart health. Retrieved on February 8, 2019, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/heart-health

      

Dried Fruit – Smart Choice or Health Risk?

We know fruit is healthy, so can dried fruit meet our daily needs?  Dried fruit is high in fiber, which is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Dried fruit can help relieve constipation, lower blood cholesterol and keep your stomach full and satisfied.  Dried fruit is also high in potassium and iron. Depending on the specific drying process and treatments used, sulfur dioxide, a common additive, can preserve vitamins A and C.  “Dried fruit is great choice for a portable, nutritious snack, but there are drawbacks,” says Susan Mills-Gray, Nutrition/Health Specialist with MU Extension.

“Many dried fruits have added sulfites, so for those who are allergic to sulfites, make sure to choose organic dried fruits,” shares Mills-Gray.  She adds, “Also, between pretreatment and dehydration processes, there is actually nutrient loss, for example, B vitamins.” Also, dried fruits are calorically dense. One cup of fresh apricot halves has 74 calories, while about 1/4 cup of dried apricot halves (its equivalent) has 313 calories (more than four times the amount).

While nibbling on dried fruits can be a great alternative to munching on cookies, crackers, candies and other snacks, consume them in moderation; just because they're fruit, doesn't mean you should eat them in large amounts.  While fresh fruits contain more vitamins and minerals than dried fruits, both count toward the suggested daily two to three servings of fruit. Stick to fresh fruit as much as possible, and when you still want dried fruits, choose varieties without added sugars.

For more information, contact your local University of Missouri Extension Center, or this faculty member directly at mills-grays@missouri.edu.

 

 

Becoming more resilient

Life is challenging, we all know that. But many of us wonder why some people seem to have better coping skills? What are the secrets for people who are able to navigate through tough times and bounce back? Dr. Robert Brooks at Harvard Medical School indicated “some people are naturally more resilient.” But resilience can also be learned. Here are some suggestions to build resilience:

Make connections with others. Stay connected with family members, friends, people who can help you celebrate good times, listen to you and provide support through tough times. Social support and friendships are very important for building resilience and improving self-worth. Resilient people have good friendships, supportive relationships and strong social connections.

Have a positive and optimistic attitude. Resilient people are generally optimistic and see things from the bright side when facing difficult situations or crises. One study conducted at University of San Francisco found that caregivers who did not find positive meaning in their caregiving were more likely to become depressed after their loved one passed away. Positive attitudes enable people to have hope and confidence in their abilities to make changes. Flexibility, accepting change and making adjustments help resilient people put their energy into things they can control and let go of things they cannot change.

Give back. Many people find that they become happier and more resilient by helping others. This experience helps build a sense of competence and fulfillment. Research shows that giving back to the community and helping others is a great tool for resilient people.

>Be humorous and playful. Resilient people are playful and laugh at themselves or find humor in a situation even when dealing with difficult events. They learn to deal with stress instead of being stressed. They also learn from their experience and adapt quickly.

Be spiritual. Resilient people are spiritual. According to a Duke University study, those people who participate in religious activities were less likely to experience depression. Even when they experience depression, their depression lifted faster than those people who were less religious. People who are active in religion are likely to cope with stress and difficult times better.

Stay healthy. Eating right and being physically active on a regular basis are also important components in coping with stress. Resilient people take care of themselves, get enough sleep and find ways to relax to stay healthy physically and mentally. When people are in good physical and mental health, they deal with distractions and tough events better and have an easier time bouncing back.

Nina Chen, Human Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension