Matters of the Heart

two hands holding a construction paper heart

By: Mimi Fetzer RD, LD, with The Idaho Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke Prevention Program

February is a time for love, relationships, and matters of the heart. That includes the relationship we have with our heart health. The heart pumps blood to all parts of the body. Blood carries oxygen, nutrition, hormones, and removes waste. The best way to strengthen the relationship with our heart is to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Tips for a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle:

Reduce sodium and saturated fat intake. Instead, enjoy nutritious foods.

The heart needs a combination of nutrients to function at its best. Consuming a variety of different fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean protein, and low-fat dairy is the best way to get these nutrients. Too much of certain nutrients, such as sodium and saturated fat, can place stress on the heart.

Examples of high sodium and saturated fatty foods include:

  • Pizza such as pepperoni with full fat cheese.
  • Frozen meals.
  • Processed meats such as bacon, sausage, lunch meats and hot dogs.
  • Snacks such as chips, jerky and shelf-stable cakes.
Quit smoking and vaping tobacco products.

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. It can damage the blood cells that transport essential nutrients and compromise the function and structure of the cardiovascular system­­­­­­­.1 Medical studies suggest cigarette and e-cigarette smoking result in abnormalities of blood flow to the heart.

For those who are ready to quit, there are resources on the Project Filter Website or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. Project Filter has expert quit coaches and free patches, gum or lozenges to support people on their quit journey.

Prevent diabetes.

Having pre-diabetes or diabetes impacts how much glucose is in the bloodstream. Over time, high blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels causing the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body.2

To find out if you or a loved one is at risk for prediabetes, take the Prediabetes Risk Quiz. The results can inform conversations with your healthcare provider and encourage appropriate lifestyle changes. Diabetes Prevention Programs are offered throughout the state to decrease your risk for diabetes. This program is led by trained Lifestyle Coaches who guide a group of individuals through a series of interactive sessions. Each session features different techniques to help adopt a healthy lifestyle and prevent or delay diabetes.

Manage diabetes.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, talk with your healthcare provider about diabetes management and participating in a Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Program. This program is delivered by trained healthcare professionals who can discuss how nutrition, medication, and physical activity can help manage diabetes and result in a healthy heart.

Engage in consistent physical activity.

Regular physical activity strengthens the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body. 3 Physical activity can also help to manage tobacco cravings resulting in smoking cessation and reduce blood glucose levels.  Each week adults should exercise for 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) if it is moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) if it is vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.

Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activity:

  • Fast paced walking
  • Vacuuming
  • Water aerobics
  • Softball or baseball

Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity:

  • Hiking uphill
  • Running
  • Shoveling heavy snow
  • CrossFit

Remember to have a positive relationship with your heart to ensure healthy relationships with loved ones all year long!


References:
1. Smoking and Your Heart. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/smoking-and-your-heart. Accessed January 15, 2020.
2. Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/preventing-problems/heart-disease-stroke Accessed January 15, 2020.
3. Physical Activity and Your Heart. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/physical-activity-and-your-heart Accessed January 15, 2020.

Healthy Eating While Vacationing

By: Jackie Amende, MS, RDN, LD, University of Idaho FCS Extension Educator

If you are road tripping or traveling abroad to a new and exciting place, you can still enjoy all the fun foods that come with traveling without compromising your healthful eating plan. Here are some tips for your upcoming summer vacation:

  • Focus on portion sizes. You don’t have to avoid those new and exciting foods that come with traveling. Share large food portions with your travel partner or go with the small size for just yourself.
  • Keep your regular meal times on vacation. It can be easy to graze on food all day while on vacation but try to stick with your usual eating pattern.
  • Watch what you’re drinking. Focus on water or other unsweetened beverages. Skip the sweetened and various adult beverages which are often loaded with unnecessary calories.
  • Pack non-perishable foods with you. Dried fruit, nuts, and pretzels make for relatively healthy snacks that are nutrient-rich. These non-perishable foods are perfect for a quick snack to satisfy you until your next scheduled meal time.
  • If you are road tripping, pack a cooler with fresh pre-cut vegetables and fruits. Try slicing some bell peppers and cutting up some celery sticks. In addition, keep whole fruit or sliced fruit ready to go.
  • Be physically active! Get outside and walk to enjoy the sites where you are vacationing. If you are on a road trip, schedule frequent stops where you can get out, stretch your legs, and take a short walk.

With these healthful eating tips, food safety is still a priority, especially if you’re road tripping. Bringing perishable foods with you like meats and cheeses may cause some unwanted foodborne illnesses if these items are not stored properly. Don’t store perishable foods unrefrigerated for longer than 2 hours. If stored in a cooler, make sure coolers are 40 degrees or cooler. In addition, don’t leave your cooler directly in the sun or in the trunk of your car on road trips. Putting the cooler in the backseat of the car will generally be cooler than the trunk. Finally, keep hand sanitizer or moist towelettes with you if you don’t have access to a restroom to wash your hands before and after eating. Now, enjoy your trip!

Want to learn more about healthy eating and/or food safety? University of Idaho Extension teaches many classes and programs in the area, like Eating Healthy on a Budget, Nutrition for Healthy Aging, Diabetes Prevention Program, Dining with Diabetes, and more. Check out the Canyon County UI Extension website at https://www.uidaho.edu/extension/county/canyon or call 208-459-6003 for more information.

Three Ways to Move More

We all know that physical activity is good for us, but it can be a challenge to fit fitness into a busy schedule. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults accumulate 150 minutes of moderate (or 75 minutes of vigorous) physical activity every week. This may seem like a lot, but every minute adds up! Activity bursts of five minutes here and there throughout your day  accumulate to help you reach your movement goals.  Here are three simple ways to add more movement to your day!

Set an Alarm Use an app on your smart phone or set periodic appointments on your calendar to remind yourself to stand up at least once every hour. Movement breaks can include standing to stretch, a quick walk around your office, or some chair squats to really get the blood flowing!

Be an Ele-voider If you think you don’t have time to take the stairs, think again! A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that taking the stairs rather than waiting for the elevator saved about 15 minutes each workday. That’s a 3% savings of time per workday, which could translate into more productivity as well as increased fitness.

Take Your Breaks Break times and lunch hours are the perfect opportunity to get some movement in! Make it a goal to get up and walk for 10-15 minutes each day during lunch. After the work week you will have added 50-75 minutes of activity to your weekly total! The added bonus is that mid-day activity has been shown to boost mood and increase one’s ability to manage stress.

Care for Your Colon!

Colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable when detected early. There are certain risk factors that affect a person’s chance of getting cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors cannot be changed, such as a person’s age or family history. Other factors can be controlled to minimize a person’s risk for getting cancer. There are six factors that have been linked to colorectal cancer.

1. Eat a Healthy Diet: A diet high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains has been linked to decreased risk of colorectal cancer. Add a variety of vegetables and fruit to your daily diet. Replace refined grain products made with white flour with whole grains like oats, spelt, and whole wheat.

2. Stay Active: Regular physical activity can significantly lower your risk of getting colorectal cancer. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. It all adds up, so it’s okay to start small by adding just a few minutes of movement at a time.

3. Watch Your Weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk of getting colorectal cancer. Eating a balanced diet and staying physically active can help you reach or maintain a healthy weight.

4. Don’t Smoke: Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop and die from colorectal cancer. If you smoke and you want to quit, see the American Cancer Society’s Guide to Quitting Smoking or visit Idaho’s ProjectFilter.org.

5. Limit Alcohol: Colon cancer has been linked to heavy drinking. It is recommended to limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. A single drink amounts to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of hard liquor.

6. Get Screened: Screening tests detect cancer before symptoms develop. Colon screenings often find growths called polyps that can be removed before they turn into cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that individuals over 50 years old get screened for colorectal cancer. Depending on family history and other risk factors, there are a variety of tests that screen for colorectal cancers. Talk with your doctor to learn more.

Housewalking. Try it.

No time for the gym, for a run, or for a dog walk? Housewalking could be your thing! Housewalking is literally walking around your house whenever you can. It’s practical, available, affordable, requires no child care, no fitness trainer, no special clothing…and it can be done in all kinds of weather! Have you considered the irony of paying a membership fee to walk somewhere else when you have perfectly good floors at home? Think about it. Here’s how you start
  • Get a fitness tracker to track your steps and calories burned
  • Get a spill-proof water bottle to carry around
  • Decide: do you want to walk in place or around your house; either works
  • Decide: which of your at-home activities should be automatic walking opportunities?
  • Put an “are you walking?” note in areas where you typically just stand or sit…the recliner, the stove, the sink, the fridge
  • Set a goal – try to rack up 500 steps each time you housewalk
  • Examples of housewalking opportunities: on the phone, watching TV, cooking, brushing your teeth, listening to music, cleaning
  • Get friends involved – start a challenge
  • Make it FUN!
Share your experience housewalking!

Built to Move

Having all your best “moves” for after work? Stop it! Move throughout your day. Simple movements bring great benefits to the body. So stand up, stretch, walk to the printer, walk the hallways, wiggle, get up to answer the phone or turn on/off the TV, use door handles instead of automated buttons. Fidget, sit sideways, dance…do something! Remember all those times your Mom said “settle down” or “sit still”? Erase those words from your memory. Saving your energy and bursts of activity for evenings, weekends, the gym, or a special event is just silliness. We are built to move all day long. So get unplugged from all your technology and bust a move; shake it up. Dance is a great way to exercise – it’s fun and can be done in the privacy of your own home! Dance while you clean, while you move from room to room, while you cook. Warn your neighbors if you plan to dance while doing yard work; it will cut down on “those looks”. If house dancing is not your thing, get out there and join a dance group. Heirloom Dance Studios and USA Dance are great places to start in Boise. There are similar opportunities across the state. Please share names of dance organizations you are aware of in your area. What is your favorite way to move throughout the day?

No time for the gym?

]It’s a pretty common challenge. There’s always something more important to do… Oddly, I do find time to sit and watch TV or play video games. Sound familiar? If this challenge hits home with you, try creating your own home workout area. You can still watch TV and play video games and you can be physically active while you do it! Shop for equipment at garage sales, second-hand stores, or your local big box store. Here’s some simple workout equipment for your workout area.
  • A set of 3-pound weights or cans; use while on the phone, while seated on a stability ball, while watching TV
  • A sturdy chair or stool
  • A yoga mat and foam roller – watch your favorite show from the floor!
  • A stability ball; there’s one at nearly every garage sale! Stability balls bring on laughter while strengthening muscles
  • A set of elastic thera-bands; they come in different colors/strengths and they’re great for stretching while sitting or standing
  • Don’t care for thera-bands? Choose exercise bands with handles on the ends
  • If simple is what you want, forget all the equipment and plug in a walking DVD. In 15 minutes or less you can have a good little workout (these are great for the office as well!)
  • Broom handles are good tools to use across your shoulders, draping your arms over the tops then slowly stretching your waist and sides
  • Stationary bikes are perfect for TV watching. Be sure you get a good fit for your back and your posterior; it’s got to be comfortable for you. Many stationary bikes are more affordable than a year’s gym membership!
  • Don’t forget your measuring tools: pedometer, tape measure, scale, BP monitor, tracking sheet
So, no excuses! Time is a-wasting! We tend to think we will somehow magically have more time in the future. Not so. The time is NOW. Move it. What simple resource do you use at home to exercise or stretch? How do you make it easy?

Damage control?

“I love the holidays but I want to practice damage control this year…” my coworker stated as she left my office. It sounds fairly clinical, but it’s true. The magic of the Season can lead one down the path of destruction and compromise! What gets compromised? – nutrition, budget, sleep habits, exercise, YOU! I did a quick review of my last two weeks. I traded away two trips to the gym to finish holiday house decorations. I traded away at least three trips to the grocery store for after-work holiday get-togethers. Tonight I am trading sleep time and relaxation to get the holiday cards written. UGH! There’s hope – you can stop the madness. Practice damage control…
  • Make a budget for entertainment, food, and gifts
  • Schedule exercise; put it on your calendar
  • Prepare at least one healthy meal every day
  • Quit the “clean plate club”
  • Eat slowly; savor your food
  • Have a plan before you arrive at a buffet or office potluck
  • Meet with friends around events, not food
  • Let go of perfectionism!
  • Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should; guard your time
  • De-stress with three yoga tips
  • Slow down, take a breath; be in the moment, not on your way to the next moment!
Share what you do for damage control during the Holidays.

Don’t just sit there. Move something!

Fidget. Do a desk-top drum roll. Shrug your shoulders. Turn your head left and right. Walk to your neighbor’s cubicle. Do stapler arm curls or chair leg-lifts. Stand on one foot. Dance it out. Just put it in motion. Make it your motto – “Seated for 60? Up for 3!” A general lack of movement or physical inactivity may be as deadly as smoking.  It’s true. Putting your body on “stall” is damaging. Letting it sit and idle all day while working is poisonous to your health. To top it off, if your belly is growing, your work performance may be shrinking. All good reasons to get up and move! A sedentary office job is no excuse. Use the time you sit in a chair to do some discrete exercises. Stop waiting for a trip to the gym,  or an evening walk, or some great inspiration – just start moving! Get your co-workers involved. Share the activity you do to keep yourself moving at work.

Put a little heart in your day.

There are many day-to-day things I take for granted. My heart is one of them. I met my heart last summer during an echocardiogram. I was amazed. I could see it and hear it. I watched the blood flow in and out. It was a bit like meeting a best friend, but a friend I had ignored for some time. That afternoon I took my heart to the gym. We “talked” in the car on the way over about stress and nutrition – and mostly about the “e” word – exercise. I vowed to pay more attention, and I have. So, how’s your relationship with your heart? It’s American Heart Month and a perfect time to renew that friendship. You can start by using some of the great tips on Heart Health.  Attend one of the heart health workshops this month. Get your cholesterol checked. Don’t just sit there; put a little heart in your day. February is a good month to re-kindle your friendship with your heart.

Use your “app-ti-tude”

Dedication, desire, motivation, reward – things you need to make any fitness app work. I know that. But part of me is waiting for an app that “knows” what I have eaten, records it for me, flashes an update on my eye glasses every hour, and physically alerts me with a nudge or a pinch when I stray outside the plan. Probably not gonna happen. In the meantime…here are some fitness apps to try in 2014 (my current fave is Lose It!). Do you have a favorite fitness app that works for you?

Healthy Holiday Gifts

The Holiday Season is upon us! Looking for some “healthy” gift ideas? Take a look at this list…
  • Air popper and popcorn
  • Basket of whole grains
  • Tea pot, juicer, or smoothie maker
  • Seeds for next spring’s garden
  • Walking DVD
  • Reflective clothing/flashing lights for after-hour walks
  • New leash for the dog (get the connection?)
  • Pedometer, hand warmers, hat, gloves, scarf
  • Hand weights, yoga mat
  • Subscription to a healthy magazine/website
  • Health related book: herbs, gardening, clean eating, stretching
  • Meditation CD, soothing sound machine
  • Massage or aromatherapy candle
  • Insulated water bottle (BPA free!)
  • Natural lip balm
Read more on How to Choose Healthy Holiday Gifts. Don’t forget your furry family – check out Healthy Pets Holiday Gift Guide. What’s your favorite healthy holiday gift to give or receive?

Fatigued?

Of course I’m “fatigued” – isn’t everybody? I have a pretty good idea why and like most people, I just want to know how to fix it. Fatigue is a feeling of weariness, tiredness, or a lack of energy. Fatigue can often be traced to habits and routines…sleep, nutrition, exercise, stress, schedules, unrealistic expectations and on and on. So, how do you kick vigor back into life without making a major life change or upsetting everything? Check out these tips to boost energy levels. Two that always surprise me are relaxation and exercise. They seem so wrong when I am already dragging my wagon! Relaxation techniques – yoga, breathing, mindfulness – actually break the drain that anxiety has on your energy level. Movement and exercise boost energy. Another close link exists between the quality of your sleep and fatigue. For tips on getting a better night’s sleep, check out How’s Your Sleep?  Fight fatigue! check out 10 Ways to Reduce Stress and Revitalize Your Life.

Take it outside!

The next time you feel like falling into the recliner or perching yourself comfortably with your laptop, smart phone, tablet or whatever… STOP! Take it outside. In fact, take the whole family outside. Put down the remotes, put away the technology, turn off the power. Unplug. There’s a whole world waiting for your family – outside. Unplug and Be Outside is happening across Idaho in April and May. Try a new activity. Have a family contest. Each family member can choose an activity for everyone to try – rock climbing, golf, fishing, bike rodeo, geocaching, star gazing, camping, belly dancing, hockey, zumba, ice skating, gardening…and the list goes on! Come on – reconnect with the earth. Take it outside! How does your family “take it outside” and be active?

Winter got you tied up in knots?

Had enough of the snow, ice, and sub-zero weather? Are the kids and animals turning on you? Winter weather forces us indoors with lots of moaning and groaning and pent-up energy. Here are some ways to use that pent up energy. For your little kids, Parents.com promotes 11 Fun Activities When Winter Weather Traps You Indoors – not a bad list of things to get the little ones focused on something fun. For your older kids, create an indoor skating rink, play freeze play or do mirror dancing. Lots more great ideas on Examiner.com. For your pets, throw a nerf ball, play tug-of-war, hide treats, use a laser pointer. Get dogs outside for a brief walk; it doesn’t have to be long, just enough time for them to experience another world. Pets can get destructive when they don’t have stimulation or outside time. More great ideas on keeping your pet active and fit indoors is on Petfinder. For you, look at “winter confinement” as a gift! Remember what it was like to read a good book? Now you have time. Get members of your family involved and read aloud, or create your own home-bound family book club. Always wanted to try new, healthy vegetable recipes? Now is the time to go online or scour your cookbooks and magazines for healthy alternatives. Walking DVD’s are great for winter weather; get off the couch, plug in the DVD, and get a mile under your belt in 15 minutes. How about your own DIY project? BuzzFeed has insanely easy fun projects that even I can manage! This is my new favorite website. I’m going to make a firefly jar…. What are your ideas for staying active indoors?