just one thing Blog
Nutrition and Lifestyle Tips ... Quick reading and lots of resources
to make doing "Just One Thing" a realistic goal!
to make doing "Just One Thing" a realistic goal!
I love sweets as much as anyone, and I don’t hesitate to enjoy a couple pieces of chocolate or a chewy sugar cookie on occasion. But what if I want dessert Every. Single. Day?
A daily intake of sugar and fat is not great for my blood cholesterol, triglycerides, or glucose levels, not to mention the extra empty calories. So I opt for desserts that have a nutritional benefit as well as a treat for my taste buds. These usually include something with fruit, vegetables, nuts, and/or whole grains.
This time of year, I love zucchini bread and pumpkin bread. Find a recipe from your favorite cookbook, website or friend, and make a few healthful substitutions, like these:
I am often asked for recipes but honestly, I prefer to teach you to make these substitutions so you can turn any recipe into a nutrition rockstar. If you need a place to start, I like Cooking Light and Eating Well (click to link) Then, remember to keep your portions reasonable by listening to when your stomach says it is almost full.
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy fall vegetables like zucchini and pumpkin by baking them into a healthful recipe!
Exactly one year ago, I encouraged readers to think twice before jumping on the Keto bandwagon (http://www.melissawdowik.com/blog/keto-what). Now, a new statement from the National Lipid Association Nutrition and Lifestyle Task Force weighs the pros and cons of low carbohydrate and very low carbohydrate diets, including a ketogenic diet. Not surprisingly, their thorough review of the literature led them to conclude that these diets do not offer benefits for weight loss above other calorie-limited intakes - in their words, there is not one macronutrient distribution that is superior for weight loss or for the management of Type 2 diabetes.
There is some evidence that a very low carbohydrate diet helps with appetite control, improve triglycerides, and reduce medication use for type 2 diabetes, but by two years, there were no differences in these markers. In addition, there are potential negative side effects from low intakes of fiber and complex carb foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
Just One Thing: Treat yourself to a well-proven recipe for weight loss and maintenance that includes eating less, moving more, and getting social support to continue these positive behaviors!
Meatless Monday is not just a great idea, it’s a global movement! In collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, Meatless Monday is an effort to decrease meat consumption for our health and our planet’s health.
If you are a meat eater, going just one day a week without meat, especially red meat and processed meat, is not a big sacrifice but has big benefits for you: better heart health, lower risk of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, healthier kidneys, and improved weight management, not to mention saving money.
Eating less meat is also good for the earth: reduced use of resources (including the land and water needed to raise meat) and reduced pollution (including methane gas emissions and waste products).
Meatless options are plentiful; try these plant-based foods that provide protein and other nutrients:
Check out these recipes and additional resources from the Meatless Monday website, plus read about the Meat Free Monday movement started by Paul McCartney and even more recipes here. 😊
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy Meatless Mondays for a healthier you and a healthier planet!
I have been waiting months for the sound of crunching leaves under my sneakers 😊.
Every Fall, I get a renewed burst of energy for exercise, since it means I can take it outside.
Why should you exercise if you aren’t as excited as I am? The benefits of physical activity are numerous:
Check out more benefits from the Mayo Clinic here and remember, it does not have to be boring, strict or painful - just walking or playing are great. Find tips for making fitness fun for the whole family here.
Just One Thing to do: Get outside to move a bit and make fitness fun!
I love football season, whether I’m outside playing catch or watching a game, or inside cheering on my team from the sofa. Usually watching games means snacking on fun, tasty foods and drinks. The occasional nachos and hot dogs are fine, but if you find yourself in this ritual once or twice a week, consider some more nutritious options.
For beverages, have a variety of options available, including beer, light beer, alcohol with light mixers, and sparkling water. A good rule is to drink a cup of water between servings of alcohol.
For hearty snacks, make pulled chicken barbecue on mini buns, turkey chili, or French dip sandwiches.
For somewhat lighter fare, try chicken nachos, hummus and pita bread, or bean dip with corn tortillas. I love these sweet potato skins.
Have a variety of fruits and vegetables on platters for easy munching, along with big bowls of light popcorn.
Check out these links for colorful, nutritious recipes from Cooking Light and Eating Well.
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy football snacking with a variety of healthful foods and drinks.
I did not coin the term “portion distortion” but I wish I had; it calls attention to our changing views and social norms about what is considered a normal amount of food to eat at one sitting.
You may have heard that restaurant portions are enough for two people, but they have actually grown large enough that one serving would be the right amount for three people. That means we need to save 2/3 to take home with us or share the meal three ways. For example, a burger at Applebee’s or TGI Friday’s can give you enough calories, fat, and sodium for more than half your day’s needs (or your whole day’s worth if you are inactive and over 60).
Even if you do not eat out often, the portion distortion of restaurants have a carry-over effect, in that now people expect portions at home to be similarly large. Dinner plates have gotten larger, too, making it difficult to judge how much to serve ourselves.
To reset your visual image of portion sizes, compare approximately 1 serving of each of these to the item listed:
Beans and legumes: computer mouse
Meat, poultry and fish: the palm of your hands or a deck of cards
Fruit: tennis ball
Cheese: wine cork
Peanut butter: golf ball
Grains: baseball or hockey puck
Check out other good visual tools here and here.
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy food, real food, good food. Just don’t go overboard on portion sizes.
Today we celebrate the 125th anniversary of Labor Day, a holiday honoring the American worker. Being an American worker, I am keeping my blog easy by recommending previous posts and publications! Fortunately, this information does not go out of date.
If you are grilling or picnicking today, as many of us are, consider limiting processed meat (read more) and enjoying smaller beef portions (read more) as well as eating alternatives such as plant based burgers (read more). Also, be sure to follow safe grilling guidelines (read more).
Lastly, don’t forget to include a variety of fruits and vegetables recommended by the DASH diet for health and longevity (newspaper article).
Just One Thing to do: Have a wonderful Labor Day and happy eating!
Last week I wrote about smoothies, and received several questions about prepared beverages such as Ensure, Boost and Slim Fast. They are sold as “complete, balanced nutrition for everyday health”, but should you believe the hype?
Premade nutrition shakes promise lots of protein and nutrients, but take a good look at what is in them. Among the top three ingredients you will usually find sugar, a non-nutrient already over-abundant in our diets. Continuing down the list, you will find additional forms of sugar (such as fructose), as well as oil, water, milk or milk protein, and corn maltodextrin, a processed food additive used to thicken. The next 10 or so ingredients read as an alphabet of vitamins and minerals.
Now imagine taking a clear glass or jar, filling it halfway with water, and adding sugar, oil, corn starch, and powdered milk, topped off by a ground up vitamin/mineral supplement. Yum.
It’s understandable that you may want extra calories and fluids after a hard workout. For an active young adult, this is a valid concern, and I recommend you look for a premade beverage that is low in sugar and contains more natural ingredients (read more here). Even better, make you own with a high quality, low sugar protein powder and a variety of flavorful ingredients such as fruit, nuts, oats, and/or spices (20 recipes here).
But unless you are an active young adult, you likely do not need the extra calories that come from these bottles. If you want a snack, eat a cup of plain yogurt, a fresh nectarine, or a handful of nuts and your body will appreciate the healthful boost.
Just One Thing to do: Make your own protein shake with a base of water, milk or nondairy substitute, then add a scoop of protein powder and a banana or other fruit.
Doesn’t a cold smoothie sound good on a hot summer day? A smoothie is a thick, creamy beverage – with a “smooth” consistency - that is typically a blended concoction of fruit, dairy/dairy substitute, and ice. It is easy to make it nutritious, but just as easy to create or buy one that is more dessert than health food.
Store-bought and chain-bought smoothies average 5 teaspoons of sugar per cup, and most servings are 2 to 3 times that size. That’s a lot of sugar! It comes from processed fruit purees and juices (such as apple puree and orange juice) along with table sugar, honey and other sweeteners. The problem with the juice and puree is that they are handled in your body like the other forms of sugar; these sugars do not trigger you to feel full or satisfied as quickly as real fruit because they do not contain any fiber and are digested quickly. Some smoothies also contain frozen yogurt or ice cream, making them a milkshake in disguise.
If you are buying a smoothie, ask if they use only whole fruit and skip the yogurt or ice cream. Consider add-ins like protein powder, peanut butter or chia seeds if you don’t mind the extra cost, but skip the spirulina and guarana seed boosts which have no proven benefits. And unless you are an active young adult, keep your portions small.
An even better option is to make your own at home. Start with the basics:
Experiment with flavors and textures until you find your favorites, then start preparing a large batch to store in the refrigerator for later. A good tip to keep it fresh: add a teaspoon of lemon juice to the blender. Store in individual portion containers such as a small mason jar or cup with a lid, then you can grab one after a workout or on your way to work for a quick, and yes, nutritious, drink.
Just One Thing to do: Make your own smoothies with a fruit, vegetable and protein source for a healthy drink packed with vitamins and minerals!
P.S. This blog was longer than my intended 100-200 word length; sorry. I hope it was a quick read!
What if the best diet to keep you healthy, young, and protected from chronic disease isn’t a diet at all?
Forget the Keto, Paleo and Atkins plans. Eating more vegetables and fruits will provide you with antioxidants, those powerful little substances that are shown to prevent and/or delay cell damage. Cell damage occurs in our bodies from free radicals - unstable molecules formed naturally in all of us - from exercise, normal metabolism, sunlight, and environmental sources such as air pollution. These cause cell damage that contributes to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and eye diseases (NIH information here).
Antioxidants protect us from free radical damage, and they are easy to get in our diet from fruits and vegetables! The trick is to eat a variety of colors, and to aim for at least 5 servings daily. That means, for example, 2 fruits and 3 vegetables, or any other combination. If you can get up to 9 servings/day, even better.
Note: Antioxidant supplements are not recommended. They have not been found to be beneficial and they are sometimes outright harmful. Stick to foods.
For a more detailed look at antioxidants, visit my newspaper article here!
Just One Thing to do: Add a vegetable a day to your intake; once that is a habit, add a fruit a day. Aim for 5-9 servings/day of total fruits and vegetables.
If you have been reading my blogs, you already know I am a big fan of eating locally whenever possible (see April 22 blog). Summertime makes it easier with fruits and vegetables being grown closer to home.
A great option is to grow your own. I started with one potted tomato plant on my patio and added pots each year until I was brave enough to plant raised beds of veggies in my yard. No step is too small.
Another great option is to look for local farmers’ markets. Most towns have them at least once a week, and it is a fun opportunity to see a variety of foods grown and raised by your neighbors. It is also amazing how much better the vegetables and fruit taste when they are freshly harvested.
A third idea is to check your grocery store for a local produce table. My store has a whole counter of vegetables from farms within 15 miles, including cucumbers, tomatoes, greens, and summer squash. I always stop there before looking at the other veggies in the store.
Lastly, look for farm stands on your drive home. I love farm stands because you can stop and buy on a whim based on what is freshly picked that day. You usually get to meet the farmers and their family members, too, like at farmers’ markets.
Just One Thing to do: Stop at a farm stand or farmers’ market this week to buy some fresh, local vegetables and fruits!
Traveling and vacations are great times for relaxing, but how much is it ok to relax your health habits? If you are like me, you don’t keep to your typical eating or exercise routines, and that’s ok! This isn’t really the time for a nutrition lesson or the nutrition police. Still, I know I feel better if I eat somewhat healthfully and move a bit. Here are my top five tips for staying healthy while traveling.
1. Eat breakfast to get your metabolism going and your blood sugar stabilized. I almost always have yogurt (good for your digestion), along with fresh fruit (especially local fruit in season). Try to add a protein source as well, like an egg or some nuts.
2. Drink a lot of water. There may be more opportunities to drink fun beverages (lemonade, sweetened tea, alcohol) so be sure to stay hydrated with plain water as well. In a reusable bottle, please!
3. Enjoy novel foods. Traveling often offers a chance to try new foods or local dishes, so I indulge in those and enjoy them completely, while skipping foods I could have any time, like cheese and crackers, chips, or candy.
4. Keep portion sizes reasonable. By reasonable, I mean eat what you are hungry for, not mindless munching. Slow down, enjoy your food and drink, and pay attention to when your stomach says stop.
5. Find opportunities for physical activity, even if you don’t want to go for a run or hit the gym. Take the stairs to your room, walk to your destination instead of using a car, and schedule a long bike ride to see the town from a different perspective. I also look for a yoga class, and I have friends who make sure they spend at least one night out dancing.
Find more ideas here and here!
Just One Thing to do: Eat and drink what you want while traveling, but in small portions, listening to your body when it signal it’s full.
Just One more Thing to do: Slip in physical activity throughout your trip. It feels good to move.
Much of the world is experiencing a heat wave this summer, and you probably know how important it is to stay hydrated. But what do you do when you don’t have the energy or desire to cook? You may be tempted to drive through fast food restaurants or go home and open a bag of chips; anything to avoid turning on the stove! To feel better and save money, though, make a plan to beat the heat with healthy meals.
My favorite summer meal is an antipasto platter, just a fancy name for a snack tray, that you can make both healthful and hearty. On a large plate or cutting board, lay out slices of crusty bread or whole grain crackers, rolled turkey slices, 1 or 2 types of cheese (e.g. fresh mozzarella and goat cheese), olives, pepperoncini and lots of fruits and vegetables that are in season: melon wedges, peach slices and berries along with cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, radishes and sugar snap peas. Yum!
Another summer favorite is grilled anything. I recommend grilling once, making enough to last several days. Cook chicken drumsticks, chicken breasts, a few pork chops, and a salmon steak along with abundant vegetables, and you’ve got 4 or more meals, depending on your family size. If it’s just you, maybe grill just one protein source this week and a different one next week. For your vegetables, grill several varieties, individually wrapped in foil with a splash of olive oil and seasoning, so you can have something new each night: bell peppers and onions; corn on the cob; sweet potatoes; asparagus; summer squash; and eggplant. 😋 Another great option is tossing your grilled protein with a fresh, colorful salad!
For more ideas, try these great recipes HERE and HERE.
Just One Thing to do: Lighten up your summer eating with healthful no-cook (or grill once) dinners!
Continuing the water theme from last week, have you ever thought of water as a limited resource? It is important to drink enough water, yes, but also important not to waste it.
A “water footprint” is the amount of water used for things we do, wear, eat, drink and use – for example, do you run the water from your tap for several minutes to get it cold enough to drink? Try filling a pitcher or several water bottles to store in your refrigerator overnight; that way, you will always have cold water to drink without wasting any.
Another way water is wasted is overwatering the garden, using too much to boil pasta, or filling a whole kettle to just drink a cup of tea - notice how these are all food related examples in your own home. Other, bigger, examples are eating beef and sugar, since both use excessive water to produce. If those ideas are too big to bite off, you can still reduce your water footprint with a few easy changes:
· Store water in the refrigerator for a cold drink on demand
· Pay attention while you water your garden and skip watering your lawn
· Cook with and heat up only the amount of water you need
· Eat fewer processed foods; these use more water for production, not to mention plastic storage and transportation
· Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and while lathering up in the shower
· Take your car to a carwash; this takes less water than using your hose at home and prevents pollutants from getting into fresh water supplies
Get more ideas here. Also, I use this website to calculate my personal water footprint. Try it; you may be amazed at how much water you use.
Just One Thing to do: Reduce your water waste using one of the tips above!
Hydration means having enough fluids in your body to be able to sweat, transport oxygen throughout the body, deliver nutrients to all your cells, and lubricate joints. It also means you have enough water in your body to avoid dehydration, which would result in muscle fatigue, loss of coordination, excessive body temperature, cramps, and decreased exercise performance.
How much water should you drink to be hydrated? There is truth in the old saying that you need 8 cups of water a day! The good news is, this includes fluids like sports drinks, tea, sparkling and flavored water, milk, and even coffee if you are a habitual coffee drinker. If you tend to become dehydrated, you should limit coffee, soda, alcohol, and energy drinks.
To get enough fluids, be sure to drink throughout the day. I set a goal to drink one water bottle (24 ounces) by lunchtime and another by dinnertime. I also keep track on an app on my phone.
A good way to make sure your body is hydrated is by paying attention to urine, which should be frequent and a pale yellow color.
When you exercise, drink 8-12 ounces before your activity, 3-8 ounces every 15-20 minutes during your activity, and 20-24 ounces of water or sports drink after your exercise. Everyone has individual water needs and different sweat rates, so pay attention to figure out what works best for you.
Find more information on hydration here.
Just One Thing to do: Drink 8 cups of water daily, plus more during the hot summer months and during physical activity.
I know it’s hard to justify spending twice as much to purchase organic fruits and vegetables compared to their non-organic counterparts. You might want to consider a compromise, though, adjusting your budget to purchase the organic variety of one or more items from the “Dirty Dozen”.
The Dirty Dozen is an annual list of the fruits and vegetables with the highest amounts of pesticide residues. These are absorbed by foods to varying degrees, meaning they cannot be simply washed away or removed by peeling. Sure, pesticides keep pests away, but they have been linked by careful scientific research to negative health effects, including skin, digestive, nerve, respiratory, and hormone problems, in addition to increasing one’s risk of cancer and reproductive issues. The health outcome depends on the amount of exposure as well as your health status, but one thing is certain: simultaneous exposure to two or more of these chemicals results in synergy, or a multiplying of their effects. The dirty dozen produce contain residue from multiple pesticides; in fact, strawberries typically contain 10 or more pesticides, with one sample testing positive for traces of 22 different pesticides.
So what are the dirty dozen? Strawberries, spinach, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potatoes, and sweet bell peppers.
Determine which of the 12 you eat the most, and consider purchasing the organic option for at least one of them. Maybe if more people choose organic, farmers will get the message.
Just One Thing to do: Purchase the organic option of at least one of the Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables.
June is National Dairy Month, but it is not without controversy. To many, drinking milk might seem as natural as drinking water, and milk products are as popular as ever, including cheese, yogurt and ice cream. But to others, dairy milk is undigestible, political, and/or environmentally unsustainable.
For anyone with a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, digesting dairy is not an option. There are a variety of plant-based milks available on the market: almond milk, soymilk, coconut milk and rice milk have been around for years. More recently, they were joined by oat, pea, hemp, macadamia and peanut milk. What makes them unique is how different they are from dairy and from each other. For more on this, head over to my more lengthy essay on milk and milk substitutes: Dairy Month.
For political background, I recommend you read Marion Nestle: Food Politics.
As for the environment, dairy cattle contribute to both air and water pollution. Their impact on air, via methane gas production, is lower than rice agriculture but higher than other plant-based milks and goat rearing (in case you want to enjoy goat milk or cheese instead of cow’s, it is a viable option). Dairy cattle also contribute to air and water pollution via their waste products. That said, small scale dairy farmers are staring to change feed composition and employ biodigester technologies to mitigate environmental impact (more here).
Remember, this blog’s intention is to stay close to 100 words (although this week it is longer) so feel free to send me questions or check out my links for additional information.
Just One Thing to do: Limit dairy milk and products to 2/day while exploring plant-based options.
A friend asked me recently to compare the newest plant-based burgers on the market: Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger. I’m so glad she asked because I’ve been meaning to look more closely at these foods, as they offer a great alternative to beef burgers. As I’ve discussed in previous blogs, beef is the least environmentally protein source in our current diets, and I’m always looking for more sustainable options.
Both the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger need less water to produce than beef, and generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions! They are also both similar in protein content to beef patties, and similar in calories. They are a more healthful choice than beef, though, because they provide fiber and contain no cholesterol. Unfortunately, they do contain more sodium than restaurant burgers such as Burger King and McDonald’s beef patties, but likely have similar sodium to those beef patties cooked at home.
Of the two, which is better? The Impossible Burger is made from soy, which takes more land and water to produce than the pea, mung bean, and rice protein contained in the Beyond Burger. I personally believe we already consume too much soy, as it is added in some form to most of the foods we eat, and we do not eat enough of the beautiful pulse (another good blog here).
While both are a good substitute for beef, the Beyond Burger gets my vote as the more sustainable and healthful option of the two.
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy a Beyond Burger as a sustainable, healthful alternative to beef burgers.
After my last blog about iced tea, several readers emailed me to ask about composting their used tea bags or loose-leaf tea. This is a great idea!
Composting tea is an easy way to make your diet and your garden a little more sustainable. You will add less waste to landfills; it might seem like a trivial amount but imagine if everyone did it every week. You will also be providing organic matter to your garden, meaning better moisture control and oxygen, reducing the need for chemicals. Best of all, they attract earthworms.
If you use loose-leaf tea, just add the leaves to your compost bin after brewing. If you use tea bags, check to see if they are biodegradable; that is, make sure they are compostable. If they contain polypropylene, they will not compost. You can still add them to your compost bin and take out the bags later if you’d like, or you can streamline the process by opening the little bag and taking out the tea leaves to compost.
It is also fine to add the tea leaves directly to your soil. This is what I do. Just loosen the soil around your plants and dig in the tea leaves, turning over the soil gently. If there is caffeine present, it will not hurt the plants.
Need tips for composting? Read more here.
Want to compost coffee grounds? That’s great, too. Read more here.
Just One Thing to do: Save your used tea leaves and coffee grounds, then add them to your compost bin or soil.
If you are like me and most of my readers, you enjoy iced tea throughout the spring and summer. It’s refreshing and open to many variations, so we seldom get bored. Best of all, it can be good for us. Most teas contain antioxidants, those wonderful substances that protect your cells from damage, helping to prevent cancer, improve heart health, and fight the effects of aging. Find more information here.
Black, green, white and oolong teas all come from the camellia senesis plant and contain varying amounts of antioxidants. Some have caffeine while some do not, so check labels to determine which is best for you. Herbal teas, on the other hand, do not typically contain caffeine and are not technically teas, as they come from an array of flowers, leaves and spices. They are also known to contain antioxidants, and often help with anxiety, insomnia, and upset stomach. They have been associated with improved immunity, memory, and arthritis pain but research is limited. Enjoy these teas for their flavors and just be sure to check the safety of each if you have allergies or are pregnant.
Iced tea can be very hydrating, always an important consideration as the outside temperature climbs. If you are accustomed to caffeine intake, the tea will not dehydrate you. If you typically do not take in caffeine, stick to herbal and decaffeinated teas. My favorites are cinnamon tea and mint tea; I brew a cup at night then refrigerate to enjoy the next day over ice.
When is tea not so healthful? When it has added sugar and other sweeteners. Some bottled and restaurant teas have as much sugar as soda! Try brewing your own then mixing in a small amount of sugar or honey to lightly sweeten, or drink it unsweetened. I like my tea unsweetened so I can enjoy the full natural flavor.
Just One Thing to do: Enjoy iced tea unsweetened or with a small amount of sugar or honey.
Happy Memorial Day! This unofficial start to summer often includes outdoor eating celebrations, including picnics, barbeques, and cookouts. Sometimes these fresh-air meals increase the risk of food poisoning, so take a few steps to keep everyone safe. My top 3 tips:
First, wash your hands before, during and after all food prep. Be sure everyone else does, too, or provide wet wipes and hand sanitizer on your outdoor tables.
Second, do not let food sit out for more than an hour. Serve small portions of perishable foods while keeping extra portions in the refrigerator or cooler.
Third, make sure hot foods are hot (use a food thermometer to cook steaks, pork and fish to 145oF, burgers to 160oF, and chicken to 165oF,) and cold foods are cold (keep coolers packed with ice to stay below 40oF).
I never used food and fridge thermometers much before I studied nutrition, but once I learned how easily bacteria grow in warm weather, the more vigilant I became. I hope you will, too.
Find more great tips here and here.
Just One Thing to do: Keep foods safe by washing hands often and paying attention to temperatures and times!
May is National Osteoporosis Month, dedicated to empowering you to understand this disease and take steps to prevent it.
Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones that effects both women and men. As bones become less dense, they are more likely to break. In fact, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, one in two women and up to one in four men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Besides fractures, osteoporosis increases one’s risk of limited mobility, isolation, pain and soaring healthcare costs. Find more facts here.
You can prevent osteoporosis by knowing your risks and facing them head on: age, family history, and a small body size are risk factors you cannot control, but you can improve your diet, physical activity, and weight while avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol intake.
Just One Thing to do: Eat fruits and vegetables every day, and increase your intake of calcium and vitamin D by consuming yogurt, milk, sardines, tofu, and fortified orange juice, soymilk and other non-dairy beverages.
Just One More Thing to do: Get some physical activity every day, such as walking and using exercise bands. Find more ideas here.
Did you know that as many people in the U.S. have a stroke every year as have a heart attack? One every 40 seconds. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked, causing brain cells to die from lack of oxygen-rich blood. Unfortunately, it is a leading cause of long-term disability as well as death.
The good news is, it is preventable! Sometimes we forget that what we do now, while we are young (it’s all relative) will make a difference in our health tomorrow. We can all reduce our risk of stroke. The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association have put together a handy stroke prevention checklist here, and summarized tips with Life’s Simple 7 to protect you from stroke:
1. Don’t smoke
2. Be physically active
3. Eat a healthy diet
4. Maintain a healthy weight
5. Control cholesterol
6. Control blood pressure
7. Control blood sugar
Just One Thing to do: Reduce your risk of stroke by picking one of Life’s Simple 7 to work on now!
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of those conditions that is often ignored or not taken seriously. It is pretty easy to ignore, unfortunately, as it often has no signs or symptoms. Once diagnosed, it is still easy to ignore when you start taking a medication that corrects the symptoms – but the medication doesn’t take away the cause, making it a condition still worth your attention. Take your meds, but address your lifestyle, too!
Causes of high blood pressure include a family history, being inactive, being overweight, drinking too much alcohol, and high sodium intake. Even if you can’t control your genes, you can certainly control the other risk factors.
Let’s start with physical activity. Studies show you can improve your heart health with just 30 minutes, 5 times a week. That is very doable, especially when you consider I’m not asking you to join a gym, swim laps, or run a 5K – unless that’s what you want to do. Do 30 minutes of something you enjoy! Once you make that a habit, increase your activity to every day, and you will further improve your wellbeing to fight off not only hypertension but heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis.
May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. Educate yourself here.
Just One Thing to do: Get your blood pressure checked.
Just One More Thing to do: Improve your lifestyle factors to prevent or manage high blood pressure. This week, focus on moving! Click here for additional information.