Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Importance of Flexibility

How often do you think about your flexibility?  Many never think about it and therefore they probably underestimate the importance of flexibility.  Flexibility has many benefits to almost every age group and these benefits become even more important as we age.

As we get older our muscles lose strength and size, both of which can negatively affect our range of motion.  Limited range of motion can put an additional strain on your joints and lead to overall stiffness.  When your body loses its elasticity, it tightens up.  Once our body becomes tight it can lead to more aches, pains, and possibly more accidents.

How do you know if you are flexible?  A good test of flexibility is if you can stand with your legs straight and touch your toes you have a decent range of motion.  If you find that you are not able to touch your toes, you may want to consider doing some activities that will improve your flexibility.

Stretching regularly is very important in maintaining flexibility. You may do some simple stretches while you are at your desk or watching television (you can find a simple top to bottom stretching guide here.  It is important to remember not to do to much with cold muscles.  Growing up, we stretched before we worked out; however, we known know you should only do deep stretches on warm muscles.  Warm muscles (muscles that have been moving) are not as prone to injury as cold muscles (muscles that have not been moving). You can warm up your muscles by walking a few laps and then slowly incorporating movements that increase your heart rate.  If you have a regular exercise regimen, make sure you incorporate stretching into your activities once your muscles are warm.  Improving flexibility can have a positive impact in a relatively short period of time.

Like with any activity, be careful.  If you do too much too quickly you can injury yourself and end up worse off than before you began.  Remember, muscles stretch best when they are warm and stretching cold muscles can lead to pulls and strains, so make sure you take time to warm up before you stretch out.

I often reference the benefits of walking.  Walking is an effective activity to help improve your overall well-being as well as flexibility.  If you are interested in a beginner walking program, I will be hosting a Walk and Talk group that will meet at 8:30 am every Friday morning in September. This group will introduce participants to various low-impact physical activities and nutrition tips.  For additional information or to register, please contact the Hunt County Extension office.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401, call (903) 455-9885, or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu. Make sure to like our page on Facebook!

**Just in case you missed the link to the stretching guide, click here.**


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Have a Healthy Heart... Join Walk Across Texas!

I’m sure you’ve noticed, stores are filled with Valentine hearts these days. The next time you see one of these hearts, think about your own heart, and ask yourself if you are living a heart-healthy lifestyle.  While the rates of death due to cardiovascular disease are on the decline, it is still the number one cause of death in the United States. Many risk factors of cardiovascular disease can be controlled by a living a healthy lifestyle and making wise choices every day. A pro-active approach to heart health also involves visiting your doctor to find out about your cholesterol and blood pressure.

While some risk factors of heart disease are out of our control, such as age and genetics, there are many things we can control through our everyday choices. Everyday choices include what you eat and how much you exercise. A heart-healthy diet is nutrient rich and includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. It limits foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients, and limits saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. It is recommended that healthy people age 18-65 exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. The exercise you do can be whatever you enjoy the most—swimming, jogging, walking, biking, or playing a sport—the important thing is that you are engaging in physical activity. Finally, as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle, you should make the pledge to quit smoking or vow to never start. While many people associate smoking with lung cancer, which is true, it is also a major risk factor for heart disease.

One bonus to living a heart-healthy lifestyle is that it is also a cancer-preventative lifestyle. Not smoking, exercising regularly, and eating healthfully will help reduce your risks of developing certain types of cancers along with greatly benefiting your heart health.

Seeing one of cupid’s hearts should also remind you to visit your doctor and find out how your own heart may be doing. You should have your blood pressure measured to know if you have pre-hypertension or hypertension, which is high blood pressure. It is estimated that one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure. Having hypertension or pre-hypertension can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney failure. While at the doctor’s office, you should also have a blood test to determine your cholesterol levels. Having high cholesterol levels may also put you at increased risk for heart disease. Knowing you have high cholesterol or blood pressure can help you and your doctor make decisions about changes you can make to help lower or decrease these numbers and lower other risk factors.

If you are looking to increase your physical activity, consider joining us as we Walk Across Texas!  March 6th marks the beginning of the Hunt County Walk Across Texas Challenge.  Walk Across Texas! is a free 8-week program designed to help establish a regular habit of physical activity.  Teams of 8 join to walk the 834 miles across Texas, from Orange to El Paso.  Each person on a team of 8 is tasked with walking approximately 1.5 miles per day.  That seems like a lot to many people, but really, it’s only about 3000 steps and most people can go that distance in less than 30 minutes or achieve it throughout their daily activities.  In many cases, just becoming aware of how much (or how little) you move throughout the day is the first step to a healthier lifestyle.  The Walk Across Texas! program is a great way to jump start your exercise routine while spending time with friends and families.

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of physical activity (moderate exercise) each week, just over 20 minutes each day.  Many become discouraged with exercise before they even begin because they focus on the idea of 150 minutes of exercise each week, which can seem overwhelming.  Keep in mind, everyone must start somewhere, and any activity is better than no activity!

Interested in creating a team and/or joining the Hunt County Walk Across Texas! Challenge?  Team captain packets are available at the Hunt County Extension office or you may register online at http://walkacrosstexas.tamu.edu.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401 or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Safety First on Super Bowl Sunday

Even though the Cowboys are not playing in this year’s game, most football fans are still drawn to the game; now, deciding who to root for this year is another issue all together!  When planning your game day get together, make sure you plan for a safe gathering. 

Hunt County highway safety and law enforcement officials are huddling up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for a special Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk reminder to urge football fans across the nation not to drop the ball on this issue.

In all states, drivers are considered alcohol-impaired if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher. Drunk driving can be deadly, and even small amounts of alcohol can impair judgement to make driving unsafe. In 2016, there were 10,497 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving drunk drivers. Among the 10,497 alcohol-impaired-driving fatalities, 67 percent (7,052) were in crashes where at least one driver had a BAC of .15 — almost twice the legal limit. Texas had 1,438 alcohol-related vehicle fatalities in 2016.

There are many other ways to ensure a safe ride home besides relying on a friend. The options include using public transportation, calling a taxi, or using a rideshare program.  The NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app is another resource to help fans who have been drinking find a sober ride home. The app can identify their location and help to call a taxi or a friend to pick them up.

Designated sober drivers should refrain from drinking alcohol. This Super Bowl weekend, be a team player and help keep impaired drivers from getting behind the wheel. Designate your sober driver before the big game begins. And remember: Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Watch UR BAC program advises Super Bowl fans planning on attending a party, or watching the game at a sports bar or restaurant:

  • If you don’t have a designated driver, then ask a sober friend for a ride home — or call a cab/rideshare service, another friend, or relative, to pick you up. If you are at a friend’s house, stay the night.
  • Never let friends drive if they have had too much to drink.

If you’re hosting a Super Bowl party:

  • Make sure all your guests have a non-drinking driver to take them home, or arrange for alternate transportation to see that they get home safely.
  • Serve plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks at the party.
  • Host your party just like they do at the stadium: Stop serving alcohol at the end of the third quarter of the game, and begin serving coffee and dessert.
  • Take the keys away from anyone who has had too much to drink.
  • Remember: You can be held liable and prosecuted if someone you served ends up in a drunk-driving crash.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Watch UR BAC program is funded by TxDOT and is provided at no charge to promote alcohol awareness, the dangers of impaired driving, and friends watching out for friends. Contact: Laura Mooney, ldmooney@ag.tamu.edu, for booking information.

So no matter which team you decide to back, you will win with a safe game party plan! If you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County AgriLife Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401, call (903) 455-9885, or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu.  Make sure to like our page on Facebook!



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes



Over 2.7 million Texans are diagnosed with diabetes and it is the sixth leading cause of death.  Hunt County has a diabetes prevalence value of 10.3%, meaning approximately 1 person out of every 10 residents are diagnosed with diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes is growing and expected to quadruple over the next thirty years.  

The two most common forms of diabetes as Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes, also known as Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM), is an autoimmune condition where the pancreases produces very little, if any, insulin.  Relatively uncommon, roughly 5% of all diagnosed cases are Type 1.  Scientists agree, while an exact cause is unknown, genetics play a significant role. Type 2 diabetes, also known as Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), is a chronic condition effecting how the body uses insulin.  The cause of Type 2 is also unknown; however, excess weight and inactivity are factors (American Diabetes Association, 2017). Both forms of diabetes are serious and should be addressed with proper attention.  Diabetes education can help ease the strain of living with diabetes and although it is not curable, it is manageable.

Hunt County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is offering Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes, a five-part educational series to help people understand how to manage their disease through healthy eating patterns, physical activity, and following proper self-care.  On Friday, November 17th, we will tackle this program as a one day, short-course program beginning at 10:00 am and ending around 3:00 pm.  There will be a hands-on lunch where attendees learn to use alternative food options to help manage their carbohydrates.  Diabetics and care takers are welcome to attend.  Registration is $10.00 per person.  Topics covered in the program will address how food effects blood glucose, the proper method to test blood glucose, understanding medications, incorporating a healthy eating pattern, and much more.   For additional information or to register for the Do Well, Be Well with Diabetes short-course, please contact the Hunt County Extension office, (903) 455-9885 or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu.  

MAKING MEMORIES, the annual holiday program, is scheduled for Friday, November 3rd at the Ben E. Keith Community Room in Commerce from 9:30 am – 11:30 pm.  Holiday craft and gift ideas will be presented and you will receive a booklet including information on each item.  Tickets are available for purchase at the Hunt County Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, TX 75401. Tickets are $5.00 each and tickets are limited.  Registration fee includes morning refreshments and the holiday idea booklet.  If you are interested in paying over the phone using an electronic payment, please call (903) 455-9885.

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County AgriLife Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401, call (903) 455-9885, or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu. 

References:
American Diabetes Association. (2017). www.diabetes.org.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Pecans


PECANS.  Being native to roughly 150 counties in Texas, the pecan tree is the state tree of Texas.  Popular for both landscaping and as a source of nuts, the pecan tree is a terrific addition to any area. Most of the pecan questions that come through our office deal with tree or nut issues; however, I wanted to take a moment to focus on their health benefits. Pecans are packed with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which can help lower blood cholesterol when substituted for foods high in saturated fats.  In addition to good fats, pecans serve as an excellent source for many vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B, and E, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc.  To top it off, the USDA ranks pecans as the most antioxidant-rich tree nut. Antioxidants are known for their age defying characteristics.  Looking for a way to increase pecans in your diet?  Everyone knows pecans are great in pies and pralines, but they are also tasty to eat with yogurt, fruits, or on salads.  At the bottom of this post I have shared a few of my favorite recipes if you are looking to change up your pecan routine.

If you are interested in growing your own pecan trees (and not so much the nutritional benefits), Texas A&M AgriLife Extension offers a detailed publication filled with information and you may download a copy of this publication here.

PECAN ORDER INFORMATION. Speaking of pecans, it’s pecan order time!  All orders must be received by the Extension office by October 13th and orders will be available for pick up the week before Thanksgiving.  Halves and pieces are available in one, three, and five pounds.  For your convenience, we have multiple ways to order.  To order online visit https://huntagrilife.ecwid.com/.  You may email your order to hunt-tx@ag.tamu.edu.  Additionally, you may place your order by calling (903) 455-9885 or stopping by the Hunt County Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, TX 75401. 

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County AgriLife Extension office, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401, call (903) 455-9885, or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu.  


Links to Pecan Recipes:



Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Why Waist Size Matters



Last week I discussed Body Mass Index (BMI).  Before I get into waist size, I would like to clarify something I mentioned regarding muscle vs. fat.  I wrote, “If you are an athlete or have a high muscle to fat ratio, your BMI will be higher than someone of a similar shape and size due to muscle weighing more than fat.”  There is not a weight difference in muscle and fat, one pound is one pound of either.  To clarify my statement, if you have two people of the same size but one is significantly more muscular, the person with more muscle will weigh more.

Now, understanding waist size and why it is important.  There are two common competing ideas on measuring the waist, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio.  Research attempting to settle the debate of the more accurate has not successfully identified one over the other; in other words, as far as predicting health risks is concerned, both are adequate.  Waist circumference is easier to measure than waist-to-hip ratio, giving it an edge in popularity (and it is the one I will use for the remainder of this topic).  The American Heart Association defines abdominal obesity as having a waist circumference of 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men.  These numbers are somewhat higher than those recommended by the International Diabetes Federation (31.5 inches for women and 35.5 inches for men) (HSPH, 2017).  Your doctor can help you determine which recommendation is most suitable for your individual health needs.  
 
To measure your waist circumference, women should find the narrowest part of your midsection and men should measure even with your navel.  When measuring, make sure the tape measure is comfortable and not too loose or too snug.  

Now that you know the recommendations and how to obtain your measurement, you might be wondering why this information is important.  Research has identified a correlation between abdominal obesity (a waist size about the recommendation) and an increased risk of several diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (HSPH, 2017).  Therefore, health professionals use your waist circumference to determine your individual risk for developing certain diseases.  Abdominal fat surrounds many of your important internal organs; this fat is called visceral fat.  Simply put, visceral fat is a gel-like substance that wraps around organs and negatively impacts the way the body functions (Le, 2017).  

Decreasing your waist circumference is a major step towards a healthier lifestyle.  In addition to a healthy diet, try increasing your activity level (and heart rate) so you sweat for 30 to 60 minutes each day.  Speak with your health care professional before beginning any exercise program or changing your physical activity patterns. 

As always, if you have questions, concerns, or just want to chat, please feel free to come by the Hunt County Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, 2217 Washington Street, Greenville, Texas, 75401, call (903) 455-9885, or email Sarah.Latham@ag.tamu.edu.  For additional information, please visit https://hunt.agrilife.org/.

References:
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH). (2017). Waist Size Matters. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/abdominal-obesity/

Le, Trinh. (2017). The Most Dangerous Fat Is the Easiest to Lose. MyFitnessPal Blog. http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/the-most-dangerous-fat-is-the-easiest-to-lose/