Thursday, February 15, 2024

A Matter of Balance (AMOB) - April & May 2024

Aging comes with a variety of unique quirks, oddities, and issues, but falling and fall-related injuries are at the top of the list of concerns. In the United States, falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries. According to a compiled list of fall-related statistics by the National Council on Aging (2023), 1 in 4 Americans over age sixty-five fall every year. Additionally, every eleven seconds someone over age sixty-five is treated in the emergency room for fall-related injuries and every nineteen minutes someone dies from a fall-related injury. In other words, falls are responsible for more than 3 million ER visits and more than 32,000 deaths annually. The fear of falling can lead to reduced activities, physical health decline, social isolation, and depression.

Factors Contributing to Fall Risks:

  • Physical Factors: Age-related changes in vision, balance, and muscle strength can increase the likelihood of falls. Chronic health conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, and Parkinson's disease can also impair mobility and balance, making individuals more susceptible to falls.
  • Environmental Hazards: Cluttered living spaces, inadequate lighting, slippery floors, uneven surfaces, and lack of handrails or grab bars significantly contribute to fall risks. 
  • Medications: Certain medications, particularly those that cause dizziness, drowsiness, or changes in blood pressure, can increase the risk of falls. 
  • Lifestyle Factors: Sedentary behavior, lack of physical activity, and poor nutrition can weaken muscles, decrease bone density, and compromise overall health, thereby increasing susceptibility to falls. 

Falling, fall-related injuries, and a fear of falling do not have to be a guaranteed part of aging. Falls can be avoided through lifestyle changes and participation in evidence-based fall prevention programs. A Matter of Balance (AMOB), an eight-session evidence-based fall prevention program, has been specifically designed to help seniors aged sixty and older reduce their fear of falling and increase activity levels. Many older adults who develop this fear often limit their activities, which can result in physical weakness, making the risk of falling even greater. Activities are conducted in two-hour sessions once a week over an eight-week period. AMOB addresses physical, environmental, medical, and lifestyle factors associated with falling along with introducing evidence-based exercises. Attending an AMOB course significantly reduces the risk of falls and helps improve quality of life for aging individuals. 

Rains County AgriLife is hosting A Matter of Balance. This eight-session program will be held every Monday from 10:00 am -12:00 noon, April 1st through May 20th at the Rains County AgriLife Extension office, 410 Tawakoni, Emory, Texas 75440.  Please join us if you are concerned about falls, have fallen in the past, have restricted your activities due to falling concerns, or have an interest in improving balance, flexibility, and strength. 

If you or someone you love has experienced a fall or has a fear of falling, call the Rains County AgriLife Extension office at (903) 473-4580 to reserve your spot. Space is limited. This program is open to all and is free of charge.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact me, (903) 473-4580 or email To view upcoming events or additional information please visit or follow Rains County AgriLife on Facebook.

A Matter of Balance (AMOB) - April & May 2024


Thursday, February 1, 2024

Reducing Stress for a Healthier Heart

Whether it is from work deadlines, financial struggles, or personal issues, stress shows up often in life. Your body reacts to stress with an increased heart rate and a narrowing of the blood vessels and over time, these little reactions can add up causing damage to your health, particularly your heart. With chronic stress, you are more likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and poor sleep. Even other parts of your body, from your lungs to your gut, can take a hit. 

Limiting the amount of stress in your life is often difficult, but you can work on changing how you respond to it. Just like the automatic “fight or flight” response that kicks in when you are scared, causing your muscles to tense, heart rate increases, and brain becomes more alert, your body also has a built-in, healthy relaxation response. When your relaxation response is triggered, breathing and heart rate slow down and blood pressure decreases. 

Luckily, with practice, you can learn to trigger your relaxation response when needed. Try these techniques on your own or find a teacher or class to help you get started. Try not to get discouraged if you are not able to get the hang of it at first, sometimes it takes practice. If one approach is not working for you, try something new. You can learn to de-stress in a variety of ways. 

  • Meditation. One of the most studied approaches for managing stress involves developing your ability to stay focused on the present, instead of worrying about the past or future. Find a quiet location with as few distractions as possible. Get comfortable by either sitting, lying, or walking. Focus your attention on a specific word or set of words, an object, or on your breathing. Let distractions, including thoughts, come and go without judgment. 
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. To feel the effect, first tense your muscles for a few seconds, then relax them. Start by tensing and relaxing your toes, then your calves and on up to your face. Do one muscle group at a time.
  • Deep breathing. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, let your stomach or chest expand and then exhale slowly through pursed lips. Repeat a few times. Many people are not accustomed to breathing deeply, but it is relaxing and something you can do anytime, anywhere. 
  • Guided imagery. This involves a series of steps that include relaxing and visualizing the details of a calm, peaceful setting, such as a garden.

Other healthy ways to manage stress include taking a yoga or tai chi class, talking to a professional counselor, joining a stress management program or an art class, or meeting up with a friend for a brisk walk. Being in nature can be very soothing for some people. 

Combining de-stressors like the ones mentioned above with other healthy habits can go a long way toward strengthening your heart. Try to eat more veggies, fruits, and whole grains, while eating less sodium, sugar and saturated fats. Find physical movements you enjoy, like dancing or gardening, and do them regularly. Remember to get enough good, quality sleep and develop a strong social support system. Avoid ways of coping with stress through drinking alcohol, using drugs and other substances, smoking, or overeating. These can increase stress levels and be detrimental to your health. 

Taking care of your heart health is a lifelong journey and learning new ways to make your heart strong is an important way to stay healthy.  

If you have questions or concerns, please contact me, (903) 473-4580 or email To view upcoming events or additional information please visit or follow Rains County AgriLife on Facebook.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Preparing for Winter Weather

As we get deeper into a chilly Texas winter, it is always smart to be prepared for whatever may be in the forecast.  Blizzards, heavy snow, freezing rain, ice, and freezing temperatures are known to cause havoc across the state. Winter storms are known as deceptive killers because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Some causes of injury and death include hypothermia from prolonged exposure to the cold, carbon monoxide poisoning from defective heating units and/or poor ventilation, and automobile accidents. According to the National Weather Service, about half of people who die from hypothermia are over the age of 60. Most fatalities occurring in ice and snow happen in automobile accidents; other fatalities occur because people are caught out in the storm. Even if you think you are safe and warm at home, a winter storm can become dangerous if the power goes off. With a little planning, you can protect yourself and your family and keep your property losses to a minimum.

1. Make a family disaster plan. Prepare for winter weather hazards that may affect the area in which you live by making a family disaster plan. When making a plan, you will need to consider whether you will evacuate or shelter in place. When winter storms are approaching, we typically have some warning, which gives us time to better prepare. If the storm brings unexpected severe weather, families need to know how they will communicate. Determine what you will do if you shelter in place and lose power. How will you care for your animals? What do you need to do to prepare if someone in the household has special needs, and how will you accommodate them? You need to know how to shut off the water at your meter. Your family disaster plan will help you to respond appropriately and make wise decisions about winter weather emergencies.

2. Get prepared. The main concerns related to winter weather are loss of heat, power, and telephone service, as well as a shortage of supplies if storm conditions are severe or continue for more than a day. Take an inventory of emergency items on hand to make sure you have everything needed to survive for three to five days. Make two lists—one of what you already have and one of what you will need. Don’t forget to check camping gear that may be stored away; items such as propane camping stoves, lanterns, matches, and sleeping bags can be very useful. The disaster supplies listed below serve as a general guideline. Each family is unique and has different needs, so adjust the contents of your kit accordingly.

  • Flashlights. Be sure to have extra batteries.
  • Telephone. If your electricity is lost, cordless phones will not work. However, as long as the phone lines are functioning properly, an old-fashioned style phone with a cord connecting the handset to the phone base will work. Cell phones may or may not work. Battery powered two-way radios are one way to stay in communication with family members who are inside the radio’s range limit.
  • Extra set of car and house keys. Store an extra set of keys in a place outside your home that you know you can access in case of an emergency. If electric power is lost, garage door openers will not work, and an extra set of keys may come in handy.
  • Battery-powered NOAA weather radio and an A.M./F.M. battery-powered radio. These radios may be your only links to outside information. Be sure to have extra batteries.
  • Water. Keep a three-day supply of bottled water. Have available one gallon of water per person per day for drinking. During extended storms, water from the water heater tank can be used for drinking. If you have advanced warning of a storm, the bath tub can be filled with water to be used for flushing toilets.
  • Food. Keep high-energy foods on hand such as dried fruit, nuts, cereal, granola bars, and other food that requires no cooking or refrigeration.
  • Cash. Keep extra cash in an easily accessible place in case of an emergency. ATM machines may not work if electricity is lost.
  • First aid kit, baby supplies and prescription medication.
  • Heating fuel. Check your fuel level frequently during the winter months, and make sure to refuel your tank before it is empty. Fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a winter storm.
  • Emergency heat sources. Fireplaces, wood stoves, and kerosene heaters are good “alternate” sources of heat in an emergency situation. Never burn charcoal indoors! It releases carbon monoxide. If you choose one of these appliances to heat your home, know how to use it safely and appropriately. If you use a gas-powered portable generator, it must be set up in a dry outdoor area and away from air intake to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Know what wattage the generator will support, and carefully follow the manufacturer’s directions for use. The generator will be helpful when there is electrical power loss. Depending on the generator, it may be used to run some appliances, but it may not have enough wattage for running an electric space heater. Check the wattage requirements.
  • Mid-Sized generators (4,000–5,000 watts) will power your basic survival appliances, including your refrigerator, sump pump, furnace fan, and several other appliances.
  • Large generators (6,000–9,000 watts) will help make the power outage experience more peaceful, supplying power to even more appliances.
  • X-Large generators (10,000+ watts) supply enough electricity to restore power to small homes. Most include an electric starter, which is ideal for elderly homeowners who are unable to pull the cord.
  • Fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide alarms. Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms once a month to ensure they work properly. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends that you replace the batteries every six months. Know how to safely and properly use a fire extinguisher and maintain it by checking the pressure level gauge at least once a year.

3. Be prepared while traveling in a vehicle. Take extra precautions to avoid extreme winter weather while on the road. Plan trips and check the latest weather reports before traveling to your destination. Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins. This preparation includes checking the battery, ignition system, thermostat, lights, flashers, exhaust, heater, brakes, defroster, tires, antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, and oil. Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Avoid traveling alone and let a friend or family member know your travel route/itinerary. Make sure you have a storm survival kit in your car if you plan to travel during treacherous weather. 

4. Dress for the season. Wear several layers of loose fitting, lightweight, warm clothing instead of one layer of heavy clothing. Dressing in layers allows for an easy adjustment if you become too hot or cold. Make sure that outer garments are water-repellent. Wear a hat, as half of your body heat can be lost from the head. Cover your mouth with a scarf to protect your lungs from extremely cold air.

5. Prepare animals/pets. Farm animals and pets require extra attention when it’s cold outside. Take extra precautions to ensure the well-being of your animals by providing plenty of water and food, as well as appropriate shelter.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact me, (903) 473-4580 or email To view upcoming events or additional information please visit or follow Rains County AgriLife on Facebook.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Healthy Food Substitutions

With so many temptations, maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the holidays can be difficult. Fortunately, achieving a nutritious and balanced diet does not mean you have to sacrifice flavor or satisfaction. By incorporating smart food substitutions, you can enjoy your favorite meals while nourishing your body with essential nutrients. Try some of these simple substitutions this season. 

  • Whole Grains for Refined Grains - One of the simplest and most effective substitutions is opting for whole grains instead of refined grains. Whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat, are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, unlike their refined counterparts. Switching to whole grains can aid in better digestion, provide sustained energy, and contribute to heart health.
  • Applesauce for Oil – Applesauce is an excellent substitute for oil in your baking recipes and it is a direct 1:1 ratio replacement. Substituting applesauce can reduce calories and fat in recipes, while providing the moisture needed in baked goods. And as an added bonus, applesauce adds fiber!
  • Greek Yogurt for Sour Cream - Swap out sour cream for Greek yogurt in your recipes for a healthier and protein-packed alternative. Greek yogurt is lower in fat and calories while providing probiotics that support gut health. Whether topping your baked potato or adding it to sauces and dips, Greek yogurt adds a creamy texture without sacrificing nutritional value.
  • Avocado for Butter - In baking and cooking, consider using mashed avocado as a substitute for butter. Avocado is a heart-healthy option that is rich in monounsaturated fats, which can help lower bad cholesterol levels. It also adds a creamy texture and a subtle flavor, making it an excellent choice for both sweet and savory dishes.
  • Vegetable Noodles for Pasta - For a lighter and nutrient-dense option, replace traditional pasta with vegetable noodles. Zucchini, sweet potato, or carrot noodles offer a lower-calorie alternative while providing additional vitamins and minerals. Use a spiralizer to create these colorful and flavorful alternatives, perfect for those looking to reduce their carbohydrate intake.
  • Cauliflower for Rice or Mashed Potatoes - Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that can stand in for both rice and mashed potatoes. Simply pulse cauliflower in a food processor to create a rice-like texture or boil and mash it for a potato substitute. Cauliflower is lower in calories and carbohydrates while offering a good dose of vitamin C, K, and fiber.
  • Nut Flours for All-Purpose Flour - When baking, consider using nut flours like almond or coconut flour instead of traditional all-purpose flour. Nut flour is gluten-free and offers a rich flavor profile. They also provide healthy fats, protein, and a lower glycemic index, making them suitable for those with gluten sensitivities or those looking to manage their blood sugar levels.
  • Lean Proteins for Fatty Meats - Choose lean protein sources like skinless poultry, fish, or legumes over fatty meats. These alternatives are lower in saturated fats and calories while offering essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and iron. Grilling, baking, or steaming these lean proteins can enhance their flavor without the need for excessive added fats.

Making healthy food substitutions does not have to be a daunting task. By gradually incorporating these alternatives into your meals, you can embark on a journey toward a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. Experiment with different substitutions to find what works best for your taste preferences and dietary needs. Small changes can make a significant impact on your overall well-being, proving that a nutritious diet can be both enjoyable and satisfying.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact me, (903) 473-4580 or email To view upcoming events or additional information please visit or follow Rains County AgriLife on Facebook.