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John Snow was a British physician who lived and practiced in Victorian-era London. Many credit him as being the father of public health and epidemiology (the study of disease). At the time, cholera was raging in European cities, yet physicians didn’t know how it was spread. Through careful detective work by conducting interviews and making maps, Dr. Snow proved that a particular cholera epidemic in London could be traced back to one particular pump, where all the victims had sourced their water. Dr. Snow’s work showed that where you lived could impact your health.

In todays modern world, at least in developed countries,  terrible bacterial scourges such as cholera and plague are rare fortunately. However, our prevalent diseases are different in nature in that they are chronic – diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, cancer, and arthritis. Traditionally thought of as “old age” diseases, we see more and more people in their 30s and 40s living with them. Unlike bacterial infections, they don’t go away with antibiotics and people live with them for many years impacting their quality of life and well being. In addition to speeding up conveyer belts to death, these “chronic” illnesses can be detrimental to one’s productivity, mental health, finances, and relationships. Ultimately, they impact the vitality of entire communities.

Dr. Snow’s work is still relevant today. Many of these chronic illnesses are partly caused by behaviors- poor eating habits, physical inactivity, stress. Like the cholera epidemics in Victorian-era London, research suggests that unhealthy behaviors are determined by WHERE we live and work. In fact, some studies have found that zip codes are more predictive of chronic disease than genetic code! For example in DC, your risk for developing  a debilitating chronic illness depends on what bus line you live on!

Why are zip codes important for our health? Community features such as access to healthy foods, parks, sidewalks, recreation centers, bike trails, nutrition classes can all influence health behaviors. Fortunately unlike our genetic code, we are able to make changes to these unhealthy features in our zip codes, just like London was able to improve its water to prevent cholera. Maps of our communities can be used to get a glimpse of some of these features. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has the County Health Rankings where you can click on your  county and see how it compares to the state and nation for features healthy food environments, access to parks and recreational facilities, in addition to health outcomes such as smoking and obesity rates. The map even provides an overall health ranking for your county. Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap provides a map where you can find your county and see the percent who live in poverty, are food insecure, and look at the average cost of a meal. U.S.D.A.’s Food Desert Locator shows whether you live in a “food desert”, or a census track with a large percentage of people living far from a grocery store and without reliable transportation.

What can you do to make your community healthier? Changing communities is hard, and takes time, diligence and patience. Advocating for health can take many shapes and forms. Asking a convenience store to carry fruit is one small way to advocate. Starting a community garden, volunteering to clean up a park, or repairing a sidewalk in front of your house are also small changes that collectively can make a big difference. Contact your local health department or county Extension office to see if there are groups, coalitions, or food councils that focus on making healthy changes in your community. Small changes can have a “ripple” effect that ultimately improve the quality of life for you, your family, and community!

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed on 7/12/17

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Accessed on 7/12/17

Feeding America- Map the Meal Gap, Accessed on 7/12/17

United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service– Food Desert Locator, Accessed 7/12/17

Author, Dan Remley,  Assistant Professor, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, OSU Extension

Reviewer: Susan Zies, Extension Educator, OSU Extension, Wood County

fruit infused water

Are you getting enough water? The old hard and fast rule was that you were to drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. However, the rule was actually just an estimate and the amount you should be drinking can vary based on gender, weight, activity level and other special considerations. You can check out this article to calculate how much water you should be drinking.

According to the CDC water helps your body:

  • Keep your temperature normal
  • Lubricate and cushion joints
  • Protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues
  • Get rid of wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements

They also report that your body needs more water when you are:

  • In hot climates
  • More physically active
  • Running a fever
  • Having diarrhea or vomiting

Do you find yourself struggling to get your water intake in? I grew up with a pitcher of sweet tea in the refrigerator at all times so drinking plain water was very difficult for me. I craved flavor. So I started to infuse my water with fruit. If you are new to fruit infused water you may be taken back by the fact that it’s not sweetened. It’s a little hard on the taste buds at first especially if you are used to drinking sweetened beverages. I would recommend starting with fruit that is already really sweet, like pineapple, to help trick your taste buds since there is no added sugar. Then, as you become accustom to things less sweet you can try and experiment with other flavors. Check out this blog post where another extension educator lists the steps to making infused water and different combinations to try. A couple of my favorites are: lemon water

  • Orange Pineapple – 16 oz water, 4-6 inch pineapple spear, 1 small orange sliced
  • Berry Splash – 16 oz water, 4 raspberries, 2 blackberries, 2 strawberries
  • Grape Pineapple – 16 oz water, 6 grapes and a 3-4 inch pineapple spear

Maybe you infuse your water already. I encourage you to think about what fruits and vegetables are in season where you live and try different combinations. Are you feeling a little more adventurous in your selection? Why not try going gourmet with these flavors:

  • Green Apple Raspberry Rosemary – Sliced apple, whole raspberry and 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • Orange Chai Spice – Sliced oranges, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, allspice
  • Vanilla Basil Strawberry – Vanilla bean (remove seeds first), handful fresh basil, 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • Mango Pineapple Mint – Slice of firm-ripe mango, slices of pineapple, handful fresh mint

Make sure to prepare your infused water at least 2 to 3 hours before you plan to drink it to allow time for flavors to blend. Refrigerated infused water can be kept for up to 3 days before drinking. What’s your favorite combination of infused water?

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/drinking/nutrition/index.html

http://livesmartohio.osu.edu/food/kendle-4osu-edu/water-with-a-twist/

https://www.umsystem.edu/newscentral/totalrewards/2014/06/19/how-to-calculate-how-much-water-you-should-drink/

http://www.washington.edu/wholeu/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Drinks-in-a-Jar5.pdf

http://u.osu.edu/powers-barker.1/2015/07/06/ohio-local-foods-infused-water-experiment/

Author: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu

friends

There are many different facets of health. We think of health as eating well and exercising, yet health also includes our social interactions and connections.

We all tend to get busy in our lives and lose contact with our friends and family. July is a perfect time to build stronger social ties with family and friends and reach out to others.  Social Wellness encourages us to develop better communications with our friends and family and to spend time nurturing our relationships and ourselves.  Respect yourself and others and develop a solid social support system.  Check in with your family and friends.

On-line social networking has grown because of our need to be connected. It allows us to read status updates and get a glimpse of what is going on with our friends and family.  Yet, it is important to have a full conversation to maintain social wellness.

Grow your social network. Consider your interests and hobbies and you are bound to meet new people that share the same interest.

Social Wellness is important including:

  • People who have strong social networks live longer
  • People with healthy relationships respond better to stress and have healthier cardiovascular systems
  • Healthy social networks improve the immunes system’s ability to fight off infectious disease

Reconnect this month with your friends and family to strengthen your bonds and improve your social wellness. Be Well!

References: https://www.butler.edu/health-wellness/social                                                    http://www.fsap.emory.edu › Workplace Resources › Wellness

 

Author: Beth Stefura, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Mahoning County

Reviewer: Donna Green, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Erie County

 

 

 

Fruits & Veggies

We are entering that wonderful time of the year when local farmers’ markets are open, roadside stands pop up and even local grocery stores offer plentiful displays of fresh, local fruits and vegetables. With all of this bounty, sometimes the question arises on how to choose the most flavorful, ripe product. You will want to choose fruits and vegetables at the peak of their freshness for the best flavor and nutritional value.

Here are some helpful hints to remember when you are shopping:

  • Look for fruits or vegetables that have the shape, size and color that are usually thought of for the item. Remember though, they don’t have to be perfect to be good! That tomato or pepper that is slightly misshapen should be just as tasty and nutritious as its perfect neighbor.
  • Avoid fruits/vegetables with obvious bruises or discoloration. These spots will spoil quickly. If you notice a spot after you bring the produce home, cut out the bad spot and use as soon as possible.
  • Feel the item. If it is very soft it may be overripe; if it is too hard, it hasn’t ripened enough to eat yet. Melons can be especially difficult to choose. Here is great information on choosing ripe melons.
  • Smell! Fruits/vegetables that have the characteristic aroma associated with the item should be ready to eat. Think fresh peaches!

Not all vegetables and fruits will continue to ripen once they have been harvested.

  • Tomatoes, unripe melons, and tree fruits such as pears, peaches and nectarines should be kept at room temperature to ripen. They will get sweeter and more delicious.
  • Grapes, berries, and cherries won’t get better while sitting out, so they should go into the refrigerator right away.
  • Other fruits, like citrus, could sit out for a day or two but then should also be put in the refrigerator.
  • Most vegetables should be refrigerated when harvested or purchased. Some exceptions would be onions, garlic and potatoes.

Don’t forget about food safety with your fresh produce!

  • Always wash your fresh produce before using.
  • Some fruits and vegetables are better stored in the refrigerator before you wash them. Items such as beans and berries are more likely to spoil if stored damp. Be sure and brush off as much dirt as possible before storing. Place them in bags to keep them from contaminating other food in your refrigerator and them wash well when you are ready to eat them.
  • All produce should be rinsed under cool running water. Do not use soap or bleach as the residue left on the produce could make you ill.

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. By buying fresh, seasonal items at the peak of their freshness and having them available to eat makes it easier to incorporate them into our daily diet.

Written by:  Marilyn Rabe, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Franklin County. Rabe.9@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Michelle Treber Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, OSU Extension, Pickaway County. treber.1@osu.edu

https://articles.extension.org/pages/19886/storing-fruits-and-vegetables

http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5523

https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/washing-food-does-it-promote-food-safety/washing-food

Health Hacks

hacks6

Have you heard about “life hacks”? These shortcuts or tips can help make life easier.  I started thinking about “health hacks” – things we could do to improve our health.  Many of these suggestions may be routine for you but look through them and see if you can find a new “health hack” to try.

  • Drink Water instead of a Beverage with Calories. Are you interested in seeing the savings in calories? Visit this CDC site for calorie comparisons. Water is refreshing and calorie free. If you want to jazz it up, add lemon, lime, strawberries, peaches or mint. For tasty combos, check out this blog featuring infused waters. Start slow and substitute water for a soda (diet or regular).
  • Get your Blood Pressure Checked. Uncontrolled blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. You may have high blood pressure and not have any symptoms – so check it to see. Many pharmacies and stores have blood pressure monitors available. Get yours checked and talk to your health professional if you have any concerns about your blood pressure.
  • Find a Healthy Weight. Do you know the weight that is right for you? Click on this link to find out. Most of us know when we are a little over our best weight. Are your clothes tight or too loose? Do you want a free tool that will help you manage your weight? Check out SuperTracker – it can help you plan, analyze and track your nutrition and physical activity. You can join a challenge; receive virtual coaching, and motivation. SuperTracker is part of MyPlate which contains many resources
  • Farmers Market. Visit your local market and pick up vegetables or fruits. Not sure how to find a market near you? Visit this USDA website to find one near you. Eating locally grown food is a great way to get in vegetables and fruits. This past week I purchased two kinds of berries, summer squash, zucchini and beets. Try something new and support a farmer from your area.
  • Move More. If your health care provider could tell you one “health hack” to do, I bet it would be to increase your physical activity. Think about these benefits: weight management, blood pressure management, and blood sugar control. Need more motivation to move?
  • Let’s add these benefits of Physical Activity:
    • Reduce your risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
    • Reduce your risk of Cardiovascular Disease
    • Reduce your risk of some Cancers
    • Strengthen your Bones and Muscles
    • Improve your Mental Health and Mood
    • Improve your ability to do Daily Activities and Prevent Falls

Do you have a favorite “Health Hack”? Share it with me through the comment section.

Writer: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewer: Marilyn Rabe, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, rabe.9@osu.edu

Staying hydrated is important to us all, but even more so as we age. As we get older, body water content decreases which can lead to increased risk of dehydration and serious consequences. In fact, dehydration in older adults is one of the ten most common causes of hospitalization in the United States. Dehydration in older adults can lead to such issues as impaired cognition, confusion, falling and constipation.

Why are older adults more susceptible to dehydration?

The amount of water in the body decreases as we age. Because of this, the body becomes more susceptible to dehydration from the loss of only a small amount of water. Additionally, our sense of thirst tends to decline as we age which can lead to decreased fluid intake.  The National Institute on Aging shares other factors that can contribute to decreased fluid intake in older adults. These can include

  • The loss of sense of thirstbottled water
  • Medication side effects
  • Difficulty in getting to or in using the toilet
  • Fear of being unable to control one’s bladder

What are some of the signs that you aren’t drinking enough water?

  • The first sign of dehydration is thirst, which occurs after your body has lost 1% to 2% of body water. This is alarming for older adults due to the diminished sense of thirst. Often when they feel thirsty, they are already well on their way to dehydration.
  • Another indicator of inadequate hydration is the color of a person’s urine. It should be clear or pale yellow. Darker urine may indicate the need for more fluids.
  • Dry mouth, flushed skin, headache and fatigue, dizziness, poor blood circulation, muscle spasms, increased body temperature and rapid breathing are also signs of dehydration.

What can you do to stay hydrated?

A minimum of six 8-ounce glasses of water per day is the recommendation for adults.  There are a few tips to help you meet this goal.

  • Get in the habit of drinking water. You should drink water first thing in the morning, at every meal and between meals. If you use a cell phone, there are free apps that remind you to drink your water.
  • Carry a water bottle with you when you are on the go. That way there is no excuse to not drink.
  • Choose hydrating snacks such as watermelon, cucumbers, citrus fruits, applesauce or yogurt.

Water is a key nutrient and serves many essential functions. It serves to help the body function, playing a role in such things as joint lubrication, temperature regulation, digestion and elimination of waste. Watching out for older family members and friends is essential especially during warm weather.

Written by: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, green.1405@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

It can be stressful for a parent to get a tearful phone call from a child at camp. For children who are away from home, it is very common for them to experience homesickness. Ninety percent of all children report experiencing feelings of sadness when separated from their home environment. Most children are able to function at camp and learn to work through homesickness. And it’s worth the struggle when kids return stronger and more independent. Some preparation ahead of time may help lessen homesickness at camp.

camp

Have your child help pack. If your child is picking out his clothes and making sure they he has all that he needs, this will help him start to think about time at camp and taking care of himself.

Be positive when you talk with your child about camp. Remind him how much fun he will have with new activities and making new friends.

Address any concerns your child may have about being away from home. You can create some coping strategies together, or better yet, have him come up with suggestions of what he might do in certain situations. For example, when he feels homesick, or lonely he could write a letter home, find a friend, talk with camp staff, or get busy with an activity.

Back up Plans. Do NOT make a back up plan with your child in case he wants to come home. If a child and a parent have an easy ‘out’ it will likely be taken. Camp staff are usually prepared to help a homesick child. You might, however, talk with camp staff to make sure your child is working through it and still having a positive camp experience. You can encourage your child to stick it out. If the homesickness is severe and your child is not functioning well, decide ahead of time what you will do.

Pack notes in your child’s bag with encouraging words, affirmations, and even some funny jokes or camp mad libs for him to complete.  If you mail letters to camp, be positive and encourage your child that he can do it! Telling your child how much you miss him may not be helpful. Consider sending stamped envelopes and paper so your child can write you back. It will help him feel connected with you, and it’s neat to read the notes even after camp.

Prepare yourself to be apart from your child for the week. Have a friend you can talk with and that can give you positive and encouraging reminders. Click here for more tips for parents to manage their own worries about summer camp.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Kathy Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County

Sources:

American Psychological Association. “Summer camp blues: Planning ahead to lessen homesickness at camp.” 2017. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/camp.aspx

American Psychological Association. “Sending your child to camp: Manage your own worries.” 2017. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/camp-worry.aspx