Tai Chi Class to begin on September 24, 2019

by Melissa Cotton County Engagement Specialist Nutrition and Health

Tai Chi for Arthritis is an effective exercise program that improves health and well-being. Scientific studies have shown Tai Chi to improve health, quality of life, and balance.  

The MU Extension Cass County Center will host Tai Chi every Tuesday and Thursday beginning on September 24, from 9:30 - 10:30 am.  The cost for this class will be $40.00.  To register contact the Cass County Extension Office at 816-380-8460.  




Stay Strong Stay Health Fall Class to begin on September 30, 2019

by Melissa Cotton County Engagement Specialist Nutrition and Health

Stay Strong, Stay Healthy is an evidence-based strength training program designed for oder adults.  The eight-week program includes 16 exercise classes that meet twice weekly for one hour. For more information contact the Cass County Extension Office at 816-380-8460 or email us at cassco@missouri.edu.

2019 Stay Strong, Stay Healthy Enrollment Form (PDF)   







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Ways to Prevent Dementia

by Melissa Cotton CES & Nutrition & Health Specialist

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. The World Health Organization estimates there are 47 million people worldwide who suffer from some form of dementia. People often have rising concern about memory loss and dementia, as they grow older.  Our bodies do experience wear and tear over the years, and our brain is no exception. Some normal cognitive changes we might encounter as we age include decreased ability to multitask, increased processing time of new information, and greater difficulty finding words you want to say.  Despite the large number of people who have some type of cognitive impairment, memory loss and confusion that interfere with daily tasks of living are not normal parts of the aging process. Many cases of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can be prevented or prolonged through healthy lifestyle behaviors.

To keep your brain and memory strong, strive to include the following in your daily life.

  •  Move your body. Physical activity has a positive impact on cognitive functioning. The goal is to get 150 minutes of moderate, aerobic exercise per week. However, any movement is considered a benefit to your body. Start where you are now and work to build-up additional exercise in the future.
  • Adopt a healthier diet. Choose an overall balanced diet that includes 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Leafy greens and berries are especially favorable for brain health. Eat fish twice a week to meet your omega-3 fatty acid needs. There has been some evidence that omega-3’s help protect the brain and improve memory. Also, choose healthy fat sources like olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados.
  • Get quality sleep. Ensure your body has adequate time to recover. A tired brain does not work as well as one that has gotten the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  • Stay socially active. Conversation and human interaction help keep our brains in-tune. Socialization also does a great deal to stave off depression, which can have damaging effects on cognition.
  •  Challenge your mind. Keep your mind active. Like our bodies, the brain also needs to be exercised. Try changing up routines like your drive to the grocery store or morning walking route, learn a new activity, or do a puzzle. Find new opportunities and have fun with it!
  •  Quit smoking and limit the use of alcohol. Alcohol recommendations are one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

 If you or someone you care for is experiencing a decline in brain function, do not sit in silence. Talk to your health care provider, as there may be an underlying cause to your symptoms. Memory loss is not an inevitable part of growing older. Learn more about how you can promote brain health by contacting your local MU Extension Office.




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.


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