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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. When people think about heart health, they often think about the impact of diet and exercise. However, a growing body of research has also established a connection with positive thinking, optimism, and happiness.

For example, do you tend to view the cup as half empty or half full? If you view the cup as half full, you are less likely to develop heart disease than if you view the cup as half empty. While negative emotions such as depression and anger are risk factors for heart disease, optimism and happiness seem to protect the heart.

In one study, people with the most negative emotions had the highest risk for heart disease while people who scored highest for happiness had the lowest risk. In another study, women with the highest levels of optimism had a 38% lower risk of death from heart disease than those with negative attitudes. In this study, optimism was defined as feeling hopeful and confident about the future.

Cheerful diverse people together in a park

How can the connection between positive psychology and heart health be explained? Three possible explanations are:

  1. Lifestyle: Happy people tend to sleep better, eat better, smoke less, and get more exercise; all behaviors that lower the risk of heart disease.
  2. Physiology: Happiness produces positive chemical changes and reduces stress hormones.
  3. Genetics: People who are predisposed to happiness may also be predisposed to have lower rates of heart disease.

If you tend to see the cup half empty, don’t despair! Research suggests that negative people feel happier when they:

  • Express gratitude on a regular basis.
  • Practice being optimistic.
  • Initiate random acts of kindness.
  • Engage in mindfulness activities.
  • Visualize their best self.
  • Savor joyful events.
  • Practice forgiveness.
  • Get outside.

Medical professionals advocate that you should devote 15 to 20 minutes a day doing something that brings you joy. What can you commit to doing every day to increase your happiness and take care of your heart at the same time? We would love to hear your ideas and plans.

If you still find yourself searching for happiness but not quite achieving it, you should reach out and talk to a health care professional. Together, you should consider environmental factors that could be impacting you, such as your diet, lack of sleep, or potential mental health side effects from medication.

To learn more about the importance of happiness and your health, join us for Happiness 101 on August 25, 2021 at 12noon. To register for this free, 30-minute Wellness Wednesday Webinar sponsored by Live Healthy Live Well, visit: go.osu.edu/WellnessWeds

Written by: Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fayette County, brinkman.93@osu.edu.

References:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 8). Heart Disease Facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

Davidson, K. W., Mostofsky, E., & Whang, W. (2010). Don’t worry, be happy: positive affect and reduced 10-year incident coronary heart disease: the Canadian Nova Scotia Health Survey. European Heart Journal, 31(9), 1065–1070. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2862179

Kim, E. S., Hagan, K. A., Grodstein, F., DeMeo, D. L., De Vivo, I., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2017). Optimism and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Prospective Cohort Study. American Journal of Epidemiology, 185(1), 21–29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5209589

Kraft, T. L., & Pressman, S. D. (2012). Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response. Psychological Science, 23(11), 1372–1378. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612445312

Pitt, B. & Deldin, P.J. (2010). Depression and cardiovascular disease: have a happy day—just smile!, European Heart Journal, 31(9), 1036–1037. https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehq031

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A great way to celebrate Earth Day is spending time outside and connecting with nature. Time in nature offers an easy and inexpensive way to increase your happiness, improve your mood, and feel part of something larger than yourself. Studies have shown that getting outside can:

  • Improve your memory and attention: After just an hour interacting with nature, memory performance and attention spans improved by 20%. In workplaces designed with nature in mind, employees are more productive and take less sick time.
  • Heal: Patients in hospital rooms with a view of trees had shorter stays and less need for pain medications compared to patients with views of brick.
  • Improve psychological well-being: Joggers who exercised in a natural green setting felt less anxious, angry, or depressed than people who jogged in an urban setting.
Child running outside under flowering trees

We also know from research that children who spend time outdoors are more likely to develop positive environmental attitudes and behaviors as adults. One of the best ways you can take care of our planet is to encourage children and youth to get outside.

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, has created an expansive list of activities to encourage children to spend more time outdoors. Here are just a few ideas you can try with your children or grandchildren:

  1. Maintain a birdbath, grow native plants, or build a bat house. For more ideas, read National Audubon Society’s Invitation to a Healthy Yard.
  2. Collect lightning bugs at dusk and release them at dawn.
  3. Keep a terrarium or aquarium and learn about the plants and animals you observe.
  4. Be a cloud spotter; build a backyard weather station. A young person just needs a view of the sky. Check out The Kid’s Book of Weather Forecasting for more ideas.
  5. Encourage a “green hour” every day. Give kids a daily green hour that includes time outside, unstructured play, and interaction with the natural world.
  6. Collect stones. Even the youngest children love gathering rocks, shells, and fossils. Read Rock and Fossil Hunter by Ben Morgan together.
  7. Learn about and raise butterflies. Consider purchasing a monarch rearing kit and growing milkweed so you can hatch and release your own butterflies.
  8. Hang up a bird feeder and watch birds. Have them close their eyes and just listen. For more tips, check out National Audubon Society’s Easy Ways to Get Kids Birding and Bird Sleuth Investigator from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

No matter what you do while you are outdoors, remember that simply going outside is the most important step. Despite all the positive benefits of being outdoors, according to the EPA, Americans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. On this Earth Day, make a pledge to get out more and bring some young people with you. Nurturing the next generation of our planet’s caretakers is a perfect way to celebrate!

References:

Bratman, G. N., Daily, G. C., Levy, B. J., & Gross, J. J. (2015). The benefits of nature experience: Improved affect and cognition. Landscape and Urban Planning, 138, 41-50. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.02.005

Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.

Taylor, A. & Kuo, M. (2006). Is contact with nature important for healthy child development? state of the evidence. Children and their Environments: Learning, Using and Designing Spaces. 124-140.
https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511521232.009

Ulrich, R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224 (4647), 420–421. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.6143402

Wells, N. M. & Lekies, K. S., (2006). Nature and the life course: Pathways from childhood nature experiences to adult environmentalism. Children, Youth and Environments, 16 (1), 41663.

Written by: Laura M. Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Shari Gallup, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu.

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A bowl of raspberries

It’s 3 pm – a few hours since lunch but not quite time for dinner. Your stomach starts to rumble a bit and you are low in energy. You open the fridge and cannot find anything you want so you turn to the cupboard and end up mindlessly snacking.

I know I am not alone when I say this: I often need a snack in the afternoon! However, a snack can turn into an additional meal if you do not have the right snacks on hand. On average, about one-fourth of daily calories are provided by snacks.  In fact, snacking more times in a day has been found to be associated with consuming more calories. For this reason, it is important to have healthy snacks available so that when you do get hungry between meals, you have something nutrient-dense ready. Follow these three simple tips to improve your snacks and avoid mindless snacking:

Plate of Hummus, sliced vegetables and pita chips

1. Plan your snacks

Next time you go to the store, make sure to add your snacks to the grocery list. Preparing single-serving snacks can help you have just enough to satisfy your hunger. Some staples that I keep on hand in the fridge are baby carrots and hummus or guacamole. Rather than eating out of the tub of hummus or the bag of carrots, portion some out onto a plate or cup. This will help you avoid excessive snacking.

2. Make healthy shifts with snacks

Try different fruits and vegetables to find the perfect snack for yourself. Foods and beverages that contribute the most calories for snacks are not the most nutritious options. By opting for a more nutrient-dense snack, you are making a healthier choice for your body and can improve your health. Rather than opting for chips and nacho cheese, try cowboy caviar and fresh veggies. Instead of opting for a granola bar with added sugar, try eating fresh fruit. Switch any refined grains to whole grains. Transition beverages with added sugars to no-sugar-added beverages. These small changes can make a big difference over time.

Plate of bean, corn and veggie salsa

3. Keep temptations out of sight

Keeping tempting foods out of sight may help you avoid choosing them as snacks. It may also be helpful to keep them out of the house altogether! If you don’t have them in your house, you cannot have them unless you go to the store to get them.

What changes can you make to enjoy healthier snacks? Are there any Healthy Snack Hacks you will try?

Written by: Miriam Knopp, Dietetic Intern, The Ohio State University.

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

Sources:

USDA Choose MyPlate (2016). “10 Tips: MyPlate Snack Tips for Parents.” www.choosemyplate.gov/ten-tips-snack-tips-for-parents.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020, 8th Edition. “Shift to healthier food and beverage choices.” https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/DGA_Shift-to-Healthier-Choices.pdf

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). “NHANES – What We Eat in America.” www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes/wweia.htm.

UCSF Health. “Behavior Modification Ideas for Weight Management.” www.ucsfhealth.org/education/behavior-modification-ideas-for-weight-management.

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Today many of us may wake up feeling overwhelmed, disconnected, worried, or isolated. At least that is how I have felt some days during this difficult time. It feels like a dream; how can one feel so disconnected and overwhelmed by work, school, or family at the same time? There are even memes that are shared reminding us what day it is, or how many days we have been under the Stay at Home Order. Some of us may struggle to find meaning and purpose throughout this pandemic. The stark reality is that the flood of emotions we are experiencing can be categorized under trauma. Some of us will be able to cope with the trauma easier than others. It is okay if you need more support, consider this list of resources for each Ohio county.

Check out the video created by a few Ohio State University Extension FCS Educators inspired by YOU!

In This Together Ohio

Thankfully, Governor DeWine has made not only physical, but mental health a priority during this time. Many agencies are offering telehealth services where you don’t even have to leave your home for your counseling visits. Please visit the website Coronavirus Ohio Individual and Family. Many support groups are now meeting virtually, as are churches, and small groups. We must all stay connected during this time. Studies have shown that healing from traumatic events occurs in relationships whether it is with peers, family, neighbors, mentors, co-workers. We can all come together to be resilient during this time.

Just because we must maintain physical distance, doesn’t mean we have to be socially distant. If you’re struggling to put this into action, here are a few easy ideas to engage in community and relationships:

  • Reach for the phone and call a friend, write a letter, video chat, or have a virtual game night.
  • Celebrate milestones like birthdays and weddings by putting signs in the yard, having a car parade, or asking everyone to share favorite memories and photos of the person on the internet.
  • Take lots of pictures and make unique keepsakes for grandparents and great-grandparents who are missing their precious little ones.
  • Write letters to nursing home residents. If you have stamps and envelopes at home, you don’t even have to leave your house!

Every day we thank the nurses, doctors, and nursing home staff that are caring for our loved ones and rightfully so. There are so many others risking themselves daily such as:

white volvo semi truck on side of road

  • Truck drivers
  • Factory workers
  • Retail workers
  • School staff delivering meals to families and food pantry workers
  • Parents and caregivers helping the children with schoolwork
  • Individuals delivering meals to senior citizens
  • And countless others who are working hard throughout this pandemic

Throughout this journey we are on, we have been told numerous times that we won’t just wake up one day and it will all be over. The same is true for the trauma and the effects it can have on some of us. Yes, for some it is impacting more than others, but we need to all come together to foster resiliency and recovery. Be physically distant but not socially distant. We are all in this together!

Written By: Bridget Britton, OSU Extension Educator Carroll County

Reviewed By: Dan Remley, Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, OSU Extension

References:

https://fcs.osu.edu/programs/healthy-relationships-0/trauma-informed-care

https://u.osu.edu/cphp/ohio-mental-health-resource-guides/

https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/index.htm

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Good Mental Health is a Precursor to Good Physical Health

It’s no secret that our society is living longer.  Based on the U.S. 2017 Census Report, by 2040 the number of individuals 85 years old and over are projected to increase by 129%.  The thought of my friends and family living longer is certainly appealing to me.  However, with the aging process comes added physical and mental health concerns for caregivers.

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the most common chronic physical conditions aging adults experience include:

            Health Disease

            Cancer

            Chronic bronchitis or emphysema

            Stroke

            Diabetes mellitus

            Alzheimer’s disease

Many of us are familiar with the physical conditions but did you know, mental conditions can be just as debilitating if not treated?  Mental health issues are often overlooked or viewed as a “normal” part of the aging process.  Let’s be clear, mental health problems are not a normal part of aging and should not be overlooked!  One in four (6 to 8 million) older adults age 65 or older experiences a mental health disorder and the number is expected to double to 15 million by 2030.  The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and depression/bipolar. 

Good physical health is a precursor to good mental health and good mental health is a precursor to good physical health.  To age at our full potential, we must place the same value for treatment of mental conditions as we do on physical.  Recognizing the warning signs and seeking treatment can improve quality of life.  Signs and symptoms can vary but examples include:

            Noticeable changes in mood, energy level, or appetite

            Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

            Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

            Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge

            Increased worry or feeling stressed

            Anger, irritability or aggressiveness

            Ongoing headaches, digestive issues, or pain

            A need for alcohol or drugs

            Sadness or hopelessness

            Suicidal thoughts

            Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

            Engaging in high-risk activities

            Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior

            Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life

            Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people

If you notice any of these warning signs in yourself or a loved one, please make an appointment to discuss these concerns with your doctor.  Treatment works and the earlier the intervention the better the outcome for recovery and improved quality of life. 

Please remember if you or someone you know is in crisis, call the toll-free National Crisis Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or text the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.  Both hotlines are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all calls/texts are confidential! 

Written by: Lorrissa Dunfee, M.S., Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University

Reviewed by: Emily Marrison, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

References:

Older Adults Living with Serious Mental Illness – The State of the Behavioral Health Workforce. store.samhsa.gov/system/files/new_older_adults_living_with_serious_mental_illness_final.pdf.

“Older Adults.” Older Adults | Healthy People 2020, http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/older-adults.

“Behavioral Health for Older Adults: Mental Health.” NCOA, http://www.ncoa.org/center-for-healthy-aging/behavioral-health/.

“Older Adults and Mental Health.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/older-adults-and-mental-health/index.shtml.

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Monday I shared that to celebrate my 40th birthday my friends and I joined forces to fill our local communities with random acts of kindness.  We spread our kindness amongst 20 states and 5 countries and we all learned many lessons along the way.

Small Acts Big Changes

One part I enjoyed about this project was the variety of acts that were done. Some acts influenced many people such as a donation to a food bank. Other acts were smaller yet still inspiring.  A simple act can have a large impact on a person when done at the right time with the right intentions. One act of small kindness can release an enormous chain of positive events. Any act of kindness can be contagious and inspire others to pass on another kind act. It is hard to measure the impact of one simple act, so never think an act is too simple or small to spend time on.

One of the kindest acts someone ever did for me was to show up at my house with a plate of cookies as I was going through a tough time. She set those cookies on my counter, sat on the floor and played with my eight-month-old baby. She might not remember that day, but I will never forget it.  A plate of cookies and a half-hour of time, something I remember more than ten years later.

Missed Opportunities

 Often I find myself second-guessing a kind idea or intention I have. I will overthink something so long that an opportunity passes me by and I promptly switch to beating myself up for missing an opportunity. I was so inspired by my friends and what they were accomplishing that acting on a kind deed became easier for me to do. It became more second nature and I was more confident offering to help someone or pass on a compliment.

More Gratitude

Kindness promotes gratitude. Being kind to others encourages one to consider what is positive in their own life. As we went through forty days I noticed this happening in our group. We started posting about how others were being kind to us and the deeds that made our days a little better. Some of these acts happen so frequently or regularly we forget to show gratitude for them. For example, I noticed the bus drivers who get my children to school safely every day, the mailwoman who reliably delivers my mail, the people at the gym whose positivity make working out fun, and drivers on the road who let me over or wave me on at a stop sign.

According to Psychology Today, Kindness means a behavioral response of compassion and actions that are selfless; or a mindset that places compassion for others before one’s interests. In performing the selfless act, a person may undercut their selfish interests. This process can lead to more gratitude.

 Did we change the world? No. This reminds me of the song lyric; I can’t change the world but I can change yours. I don’t know if we permanently changed anyone’s world. I like to think we lightened a few loads, and added some extra smiles to our communities and that is enough. It is enough because it changed us.

When you can, hold the door, let someone over on the freeway, smile at a stranger. Do what you can where you can to make your corner of the world a little kinder- it is enough!

Sources:

I Can’t Change the World, but I Can Change Yours. (2019, November 4). Retrieved from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/11/04/i-cant-change-the-world-but-i-can-change-yours/.

Wahba, O. (2017). Kindness boomerang: how to save the world (and yourself) through 365 daily acts. New York: Flatiron Books.

Harvard Health Publishing. (2019). Giving thanks can make you happier. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier.

Make Kindness The Norm. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/the-science-of-kindness.

Why Random Acts of Kindness Matter to Your Well-being. (2017, November 16). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201711/why-random-acts-kindness-matter-your-well-being.

Author: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

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

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I turned forty this year. That is a big milestone to celebrate and yet I did nothing except manage to stay alive 14,600 days in a row. Nevertheless, the fact that forty came for me and I am somewhat excited means that this milestone deserves a celebration. I grew up with a dad in the Air Force, and we moved every four years or less. My spouse is an Air Force civilian and we’ve spent his career calling different places in the US and around the world home. This means that my friends are scattered all over the world. Gathering them together for a celebration would have been impossible.

 Last year I took on the “Kindness Boomerang” book as my resolution. It may be the only resolution I have kept my entire life. The book supplies an idea for a kind act and a quote for every day of the year. Even if I was unable to complete the suggested act, I still found inspiration in the daily quotes such as:

“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions.” Amelia Earhart

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can so something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” Edward Everett Hale

I combined social media and the book and found a way to celebrate with my friends all over for forty days! I asked all my Facebook friends to sign up for a day to share a small act of kindness for 40 days leading up to my birthday. The response was overwhelming. Many friends responded, and for those 40 days shared their kind act on our Facebook group. We covered some distance. We had participants in all corners of Ohio, 19 other states and covering the globe in Germany, Japan, Italy, Finland, and Spain. We had a lot of fun, strengthened connections and learned a few things along the way.

Health benefits from being kind?

Do you want more energy or to feel happier? Raise your hand if you want to live longer! Are you looking to decrease feelings of depression or anxiety? Be kind!!

Research proves kindness is good for health. About half of the participants in a research study reported that they felt stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth.

People who practice kindness regularly have 23% less cortisol, (the stress hormone) than the average population. A 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 countries found that generous people are happiest overall. There are many other health benefits of being kind; lower blood pressure, reduced pain and increased positivity.

Next post we cover lessons learned about opportunities for kindness, the impact of small acts and my final thoughts on the project.

Sources:

Wahba, O. (2017). Kindness boomerang: how to save the world (and yourself) through 365 daily acts. New York: Flatiron Books.

Harvard Health Publishing. (2019). Giving thanks can make you happier. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier.

Make Kindness The Norm. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/the-science-of-kindness.

Why Random Acts of Kindness Matter to Your Well-being. (2017, November 16). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-nourishment/201711/why-random-acts-kindness-matter-your-well-being.

Author: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

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

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causeway

Every day on my drive to work I cross over the Mosquito Creek causeway.  Driving over the lake is always beautiful with the scenery of birds, and ice anglers in the winter and an array of boats and skiers in the summer.

Driving over the causeway twice a day,  enjoying nature has provided me a moment to reflect both before and after work.  Over the years, this time is important to me, preparing me for the day and reminding me to slow down and take a moment to pause.

We all live busy lives. Our workdays are busier.  Digital technology has extended work into late hours.  Our work/life balance suffers.  Recently, at our Extension Annual Conference, keynote speaker Theresa Glomb gave an inspiring talk on how we can improve our work and home lives.  She shared a relatable message with the following action steps:

 

Work Hard

Have Fun

Choose Kind

Be Present

 

Work Hard–

Create a routine to accomplish goals or make significant progress on a project.

Plan for 60-90 minutes of uninterrupted work.

Have Fun–

Create a positive work environment.

Reflect on one good thing that happened during the weekday.

Share positive events with team members.

Choose Kind–

Ask a co-worker how their evening was last night.

Give a compliment for a job well done.

Be respectful.

Be Present–

Pay attention. Focus on the task.

Engage in mindful practices daily.

Pause before answering a question, text, or mail.

This advice is easy to remember and a simple tenet of how we can choose to spend our days in a more meaningful way.  Take a moment today to pause…. What strategies will you incorporate into your daily life?

Written by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Sources:

Click to access Work-Hard-Have-Fun-Choose-Kind-Be-Present-Lecture-BNW-MNovation-2018.pdf

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two hands with mittens holding a heart-shaped snowball
What comes to mind when you think of February? For many, it’s Valentine’s Day, others may think of a dreaded month of winter weather. Some may know February as Black History Month. Still others, like me, may think of American Heart Month. While all of these are accurate, one is nearer and dearer to my heart, pun intended.

You see, at the end of my junior year of high school, my dad had his first heart-related incident two days after his 37th birthday. He had to have angioplasty for a blocked artery. A month or so later, my dad’s brother John had to have open-heart surgery ON his birthday. My dad had already lost his oldest brother to a massive heart attack. Uncle Bill was in his forties when he collapsed after coming home from work. My dad’s brother Jim had suffered a heart attack and had a couple of heart procedure in subsequent years as well. My dad had another angioplasty when I was a freshman in college.

My dad attended cardiac rehabilitation after both of his angioplasties. The first time, I attended some of his sessions since I was out of school for the summer. While attending Ohio University, I learned about a program that would enable me to work in cardiac rehab. I never realized this was something I would be able to do without becoming a physician. I completed the program and was fortunate to find a position right away working for a cardiologist who had cardiac rehab as part of his practice. I worked there for 5 years before taking a position in a hospital cardiac and pulmonary rehab facility.

My dad had his first open-heart surgery shortly after he turned 44. Yes, you read that right. My dad’s oldest living brother Bob, had open heart surgery a couple months later the same year. My dad had his second open-heart surgery 2 days prior to his 57th birthday, which he celebrated in the hospital. A month or so prior to this, my uncle by marriage had to have a stent. He attended cardiac rehab at the hospital where I was working. When my dad had his second open-heart surgery, he started cardiac rehab 2 weeks after his surgery because he was recovering so well and my uncle was able to drive him. This was an interesting experience for me. The person who had always taken care of me, was now in my care. It was also a relief because I knew he was getting the best of care.

My dad will turn 67 at the end of May. I am happy to say that he is doing fairly well. He finally quit smoking once and for all. Yes, he quit each time he had a heart event, but he eventually started back. He takes his medications as directed. Stress is really not an issue for him. He could stand to be more active and eat a little better, both of which would help his weight. Overall, everything considered, he is fortunate. I am also happy to report that I turned 46 in August and I have no signs or symptoms of any heart-related conditions.

As you may have figured out, heart disease is very near and dear to me. I obviously learned at a young age that I have a strong family history. So, I have taken steps to try to help reduce my risk for developing heart disease. While we hear about all sorts of other diseases and conditions, heart disease has been and still remains the number one killer of men AND women in the United States. So, if you have not been taking the best care of your heart, it’s not too late to start. What better month than February to begin?!

10 Things You May Not Know About Heart Disease [Infographic]

Written by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County, jones.5640@osu.edu

Photos:

https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/heart-facts-infographic

https://pixabay.com/en/heart-snowball-gloves-winter-hands-1416344/

Sources:

American Heart Association, (2019). Found at: https://www.heart.org/

American Heart Association, (2019). Cardiovascular disease affects nearly half of American adults, statistics show. Found at: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/01/31/cardiovascular-diseases-affect-nearly-half-of-american-adults-statistics-show

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2015). Preventing Heart Disease: Healthy Living Habits. Found at: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/healthy_living.htm

CNN Staff, (2019).  Meet the man who created Black History Month. Retrieved from: https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/01/us/history-of-black-history-month-trnd/index.html

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, (2013). Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes. Retrieved from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/heart-healthy-lifestyle-changes

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Learn more about heart disease. Retrieved from: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/education-and-awareness/heart-month/learn-more-about-heart-disease

Office of Women’s Health, (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.womenshealth.gov/heart-disease-and-stroke

 

 

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This past week it seems as though Fall has arrived in full force. The cooler temperatures, shorter days, changing leaves, and farmers working in the fields into the wee hours of the night signals Fall is here to stay. With the arrival of Fall, many think of football, pumpkins, bon fires, sweaters, as well as the upcoming holiday season. One of the most important, and often overlooked aspects of Fall, is the flu vaccine and remaining healthy throughout the holidays and into Spring.

Having worked in healthcare for over 22 years prior to joining ExteTeddy bear with tissues, thermometer, and cough medicinension, I would never think of NOT getting my flu shot. I witnessed first-hand some of the serious consequences of the flu, especially in those who are at high risk for contracting it. I consider my health to be better than average, but many of the people I interact or come into contact with may be at increased risk. The CDC considers the following groups to be at high risk for flu complications:

  • Children younger than 5, but especially younger than 2 years old;
  • People 65 and older;
  • People with asthma, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions;
  • People with blood, kidney, liver, endocrine, and metabolic disorders, including diabetes mellitus;
  • People who have a weakened immune system due to disease or medication;
  • Pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum;
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The CDC also suggests these reasons to get a flu shot:

  • Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu illnesses and reduce the risk of flu hospitalization, ICU admission and even death in children.
  • Flu vaccine also is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions (heart disease, lung disease, diabetes).
  • In addition to helping to protect pregnant woman from flu illness and hospitalization, a flu vaccine given during pregnancy has been shown to help protect the baby from flu infection for several months after birth, before he or she is old enough to be vaccinated.
  • A 2017 study showed that flu vaccine can be life-saving in children.
  • Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick. (For example a 2017 study showed that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients.)

Most of us probably know someone who is skeptical about getting a flu shot. The CDC has listed some of the misconceptions people may have about the flu and the flu vaccine. So, if the millions of people who are hospitalized each year with complications related to the flu are not enough to convince you or those you know and love, perhaps knowing the facts about the flu and the flu shot will.

Written by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Amy Meehan, MPH, Healthy People Program Specialist

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control (9/24/18). Vaccination Remains Your Best Flu Protection. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/flu/index.html

Centers for Disease Control (9/25/18). Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.html

Centers for Disease Control (10/2/18). Seasonal Flu Shot. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm

https://pixabay.com/en/allergy-cold-disease-flu-girl-18656/

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