The holiday season is here and festive parties, gatherings, and family dinners are a normal event on your calendar and to do list. All the planning and excitement can bring holiday cheer, especially with delicious food around the table. But, the fun can end soon if the foods you eat make you and others ill.
A food-borne illness is an infection or uncomfortable irritation of the gastrointestinal tract caused by food or beverages that contain harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, or chemicals. Some common foodborne illness symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and flu-like symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, and chills. These symptoms can start within hours of eating contaminated food or drink and last a few hours to several days.
During holiday parties many dishes are left unattended for more time than recommended causing harmful bacteria to grow. If you are hosting a holiday party or preparing your favorite potluck dish this winter, make sure safe food-handling is practiced in the home.
Practicing four basic food safety rules can help prevent food-borne illness and keep you and your guests feeling festive this season," said Elaine Montemayor-Gonzalez, a Health Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.
Keep it clean!
Prevent cross contamination!
Cook to kill harmful germs!
Keep it chill!
November is National Diabetes Month; and this year the National Institutes for Health (NIH) is highlighting the link between diabetes and heart disease.
According the NIH “When blood sugar is high and moving through blood vessels, the vessels and nerves that control the heart can be damaged, causing heart disease”.
“We think of diabetes as having to do with elevated blood sugar levels and heart disease with elevated cholesterol levels; and that is true, but the combination of the two diseases increases the impact of both conditions”, said David Leal, Program Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Healthy South Texas Initiative. He continues, “We feel as though they are separate diseases, but they very much go hand in hand”.
The NIH reports that we are more likely to develop heart disease and have a greater chance of heart attack or stroke with diabetes. People with Diabetes are also more likely to have certain conditions like high blood pressure or high cholesterol that increase the chances of heart disease or stroke, which is why smoking and the use of tobacco should be stopped.
We might smoke as a way to relax and manage stress; therefore the NIH also recommends finding healthy ways of coping with stress like walking, being in nature, starting a creative hobby, or listening to music. Also, it is easy, especially around the holidays, to use food as a way of coping with stress. But using these alternatives to “emotional eating” can contribute to a healthy weight.
Lastly the NIH recommends keeping track of your laboratory numbers that indicate diabetes and heart disease like A1c, Blood Pressure, and Cholesterol levels. Remember that your A1c is a test that shows how controlled your blood glucose has been over the past 3 months and is important to know so you and your doctor can track improvement due to medication for diabetes and creating healthy habits like eating vegetables and being more active.
The link between diabetes and heart disease can be overwhelming, even frightening. By taking these steps we can control or possibly prevent diabetes and heart disease, though we will likely need help.
Leal stresses the importance of keeping doctor’s appointments, he says “We can’t wait until our blood sugar and cholesterol numbers are out of control to finally go to a doctor. These are chronic diseases that don’t away but they can be controlled and managed with proper medical care”.
For financial assistance with medications Contact the Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Medication Assistance Program, at 1-866-524-1408.
On October 2nd, get a few steps in and spend time with your kids, to celebrate International Walk to School Day.
According to the non-profit organization, Safe Routes to School, the day’s effort is aimed at increasing physical activity among children, reducing traffic and benefiting the environment with reduced vehicle emissions or with increasing safe pedestrian routes. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that almost half of elementary and middle school students walked or biked to school in 1969; that number is less than 15-percent fifty years later.
To promote physical activity for youth, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service has introduced the “Walking School Bus” program which organizes Parent and Volunteer efforts to help children get to school safely and let them move their bodies before the learning starts.
“Children show up at school and behave better, and learn better, when they’ve had some physical activity – like walking to school.” said Suzanne Duda, the President of the organization, Blue Zones, whose is mission informed and inspired by the world's longest-lived cultures. Blue Zones organization help people live longer and better lives by improving their environment.
The Walking School Bus is a flexible program that allows two or more children to walk a set route to school under adult supervision for just eight weeks or the entire school year if desired. Erica Reyes, Extension Program Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, is a developer of the “Walking School Bus” Program. She says, “Walking to school offers an opportunity for school-aged children to increase their levels of daily physical activity, and that is important as a community effort to reduce the number of children that are overweight as that can have health implications for them later in life”.
Research in community health encourages physical activity, like walking, as it has numerous benefits for youth and teenagers; like bone and muscle strength and learning or behavioral aspects.
Reyes concludes, “Walking is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to stay healthy”. Another way to help form a sustained habit of walking/activity is by participating in any local Extension Walk Across Texas (WAT) programs. Walk Across Texas! is a FREE, 8-week program designed to help Texans establish the habit of regular physical activity.
Over the past four decades, the rise in childhood obesity has significantly impacted many children, adolescents, and adults. The Centers for Disease Control states that 1 in every 5 children in the United States has obesity. Children with obesity are at a higher risk for developing chronic health conditions, such as asthma, joint and bone complications, sleep apnea, and type 2 diabetes. They are also at a higher risk for developing heart disease, due to potential high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Children with obesity are more likely to be obese as adults which increases the risk Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, as well and many types of cancers.
There are many factors that have a major influence on obesity in children. Eating behaviors, lack of physical activity, metabolism and family genetics are the most individualized factors; however, home environment and social factors play a huge role. “One of the most influential risk factors of them all is screen time”, says Elaine Montemayor-Gonzalez, a Health Specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. “Too much time spent being inactive while watching television, scrolling social media or playing video games may also lead to lack of sleep for some children, which is also a risk factor for obesity”, says Montemayor-Gonzalez. There is a cycle of events that all lead to the development of obesity. Over the years there has been a trend of inactivity and easy accessibility to inexpensive, high calorie foods and empty calorie beverages.
How can we help support the healthy growth and development that children need to become healthy adults? It is most important to be a healthy role model for your family, says Montemayor-Gonzalez. “Making health a priority and caring about the quality of the food that your family eats, and how much activity they get is really the first step” says Montemayor-Gonzalez. She continues, “Seek out help and resources so that you feel supported when making changes for yourself and your family”. Try making some of the following changes and look at these helpful resources from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.
As parents, grandparents, and guardians we must make positive changes for our children. We are the most important influencers in their lives. The positive change for a healthy lifestyle must come from us.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Offers Tips to Reduce Risks
With summer vacations coming to a close and preparations for back-to-school underway, it is important to safeguard your family’s health by having their immunizations up-to-date. August marks Immunization Awareness Month with various themes focused on preventing diseases through a person’s lifetime. From pregnancy to babies, young children to teens, and adults to seniors, vaccines play a vital role.
How do vaccines work?
Vaccines help the body develop immunity by imitating infections. The imitations almost never causes an illness, but they can cause mild symptoms such as a fever. Once the imitating infection has passed, the body is able to recognize how to fight the disease in the future and the person is said to be immunized.
What are the different types of vaccines?
Vaccines vary across the world because they are dependent on the strains specific to the regions where they are administered. Some vaccines are one-and-done, while others require more than one dose. For example, the vaccine against meningitis requires a second dose to strengthen protection when young adults are most vulnerable to exposure. In other instances, immunity may begin to lose effectiveness over time and a “booster” is needed to increase the immunity once more. Vaccines that require boosters include the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis) for younger children and Tdap for teens and adults. Some vaccines are even need yearly, such as the flu vaccine, because the virus varies from season to season and immunity wears off fairly quickly.
Planning ahead is important if you will be traveling abroad, as diseases rarely seen in the United States may be common in other countries. It is important to talk to your physician before embarking on international travel and to ask them about any vaccines you may need both before leaving and after returning.
Future moms-to-be can protect themselves and their babies from serious diseases, such as whooping cough and flu, by getting vaccinated during pregnancy. By doing so, their bodies produce protective antibodies that are then passed on to baby before birth. Once the baby is born, vaccines are recommended to protect against serious and sometimes deadly diseases. Depending on their age, health and development, babies are vaccinated at specific stages for chickenpox (varicella), mumps, polio, diphtheria, flu (influenza), hepatitis A and B, pneumococcal, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), measles and whooping cough (pertussis).
What vaccines to get and when
As children grow, some of their immunizations begin to lose effectiveness, so they get four vaccinations: Tdap booster, meningococcal, human papilloma virus (HPV) and flu. It is important to talk to your child’s pediatrician to make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccines and to ask any questions you may have about them. If you don’t know or have misplaced your child’s immunization record, these can be requested through the Texas Immunization Registry (ImmTrac2).
Note that after age 26, records are deleted. Forms can be found at: https://www.dshs.texas.gov/immunize/immtrac/clients.shtm.
As we get older, “immunizations begin to wear off over time…and adults may be at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases due to age, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states. Recommendations for adults include an annual flu vaccine, a Tdap vaccine if it was not received as an adolescent, and Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster every 10 years. For adults 19 to 26 years of age, the HPV vaccine is also recommended. For adults age 50 and older, the risk of certain diseases increases as the immune system begins to weaken. The CDC recommends that in addition to the annual flu vaccine, adults age 50 and older get the Td/Tdap vaccine and shingles vaccine. Those 65 years and older should also get the pneumococcal vaccine. It is vital to talk to your physician regarding additional vaccine needs for certain health conditions.
Still unsure which vaccines you need? Use the CDC’s Adult Vaccine Assessment Tool to determine which vaccines are recommended for you age, health conditions, employment and other factors at: https://www2.cdc.gov/nip/adultimmsched/
What to do if someone is not vaccinated
If a child or an adult is not immunized, it is important to become aware of signs and symptoms of vaccine-preventable diseases that may be in your community and seek immediate help if early signs develop. Inform your doctor(s), ambulance personnel and/or emergency room staff that your child or family member has not been fully vaccinated so correct treatment is provided and medical staff can take precautions for the vaccine-preventable disease to not spread to others.
Talk to your primary care physician about what you can do to reduce risks by having up-to-date immunizations. Visit your local health department, federally qualified health center and clinic, or ask for more information from your local County Extension office.
About Healthy Texas. Healthy Texas combines the expertise of Texas A&M University Health Science Center with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Services one-of-a-kind, statewide reach to provide families with knowledge and resources to take control of their health. Healthy South Texas, the pilot program of Healthy Texas, is a novel effort to reduce the highest impact diseases and their consequences throughout a 27-county region in South Texas. www.healthytexas.tamu.edu
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is a unique education agency with a statewide network of professional educators, trained volunteers, and county offices. It reaches into every Texas county to address local priority needs, protecting human health through education about diet, exercise, and disease prevention. There are over 250 counties in Texas with a local Extension office.
National Immunization Month - https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/events/niam.html
During Youth Sports Week, July 16-22, thousands of youth sports coaches, and parents are showing their support with a focus on P.L.A.Y.S. ~ Physical activity, Living healthy, Access, Youth development, Safety. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service recommends starting this week off by listening to the needs and wants of the youth participants in order to strengthen the skills and bonds created by youth sports.
Youth sports participation has positive impacts on health, fitness, character development and other traits that contribute to success in school and adulthood. “Sports are a wonderful way for children to stay healthy, but most importantly, we need children to have activity that they enjoy and in which their bodies, muscles, and brains are used in a variety of ways”, said Erica Reyes, Extension Program Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
In 2014, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) met to advance a more appropriate and optimal, evidence-informed approach to youth athlete development. The IOC guidelines include:
1. Consideration of individual and constantly changing rates of growth, maturation and development
2. Holistic and diverse development of the athlete and person
3. Individual and flexible frameworks of athlete development
4. Mitigating injury risk and promoting health through sport
5. Advocacy for a wider definition of athletic and sport success
Reyes states “in looking at these guidelines, think of the total child’s needs. Each is different with their interests, physical development, ability, and maturation. Also important is making sure they follow healthy eating guidelines, keep hydrated, and get enough rest”.
It is important to engage youth athletes in learning the importance of proper nutrition and hydration for maximum athletic performance and for general health and well-being. Proper nutrition is vital for youth athletes because they need extra nutrients to maintain and sustain performance and endurance. As the youth athlete takes in the proper nutrition before and after physical activity, they need to combine it with fluid intake before and during physical activity. The youth athlete may become dehydrated with the loss of water through sweating and breathing if the appropriate amount of fluids is not consumed. Without the proper amount of fluids, the body will not work to its full potential.
Key messages for proper nutrition include; make half your plate fruits and vegetables, switch to fat-free or low-fat milk, make at least half your grains whole grains, compare foods for choices lower in sodium, and drink water instead of sugary drinks.
Remember proper hydration before, during, and after practice or games. Make sure you watch for signs of dehydration which include; thirst, dry mouth, flushed skin, fatigue, headache, dizziness/weakness, high body temperature, and an increased breathing rate.
Lastly, in celebrating youth sports week this July, and youth sports in general, there should be a combination of healthy competitiveness, fun, family/team bonding, and safety!
For more information, please contact your local County Extension Agent and don't forget to listen to our podcast.
While June is best known for its scorching temperatures and the beginning of summer, did you know that June is also National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month? Fruits and vegetables are not only a great way to incorporate beautiful colors into our meals but they are also an important part of a healthy and balanced diet and help us perform our day to day activities.
Many of us are familiar with the slogan “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” and while this may not be entirely true, eating our fruits and vegetables does have many health benefits that can help keep the doctor away, says Amy Valdez, a health specialist with AgriLife Extension. Overall a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of various chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of nutrients such as potassium, folate, dietary fiber, and vitamins A and C. A healthy, well balanced diet including foods such as spinach, bananas and sweet potatoes, which contain potassium, can help to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Folate or folic acid aids in the formation of red blood cells and can help reduce the risk of neural tube defects during fetal development. Dietary fiber found in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and can aid in reducing cholesterol levels. Vitamin A plays a role in eye and skin health while both Vitamin A and C can help boost the immune system and help fight against infections. Fruits and vegetables are also great to eat as a snack or a side as a majority of them are low in calories, sodium, and fat and they add vibrant colors to our meals making them more appealing to eat.
To celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, Valdez recommends trying out these four ideas below:
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offers some simple recipes that include fresh produce to help you incorporate fruits and vegetables, such as Dinner Tonight’s Summer Veggies with Bow Tie Pasta or Fresh Berry Caprese Salad recipes. To learn more about the recipes, visit https://dinnertonight.tamu.edu
*For more information comment below.
According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of American adults are living with high blood pressure (also called hypertension), yet many are unaware that they have it. In kids and teens, elevated blood pressure is becoming increasingly common, which may lead to health problems later in life. During May’s National High Blood Pressure Education Month, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is working to raise awareness and share the most important tips to prevent or manage high blood pressure.
Knowing your risk factors is the first key prevention strategy. “Besides age, genetics and a family history of high blood pressure, there are lifestyle risk factors that you can control, such as obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption,” said Dr. Sumathi Venkatesh, a health specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “Certain medical conditions like diabetes can also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure,” she added.
Because there are no obvious symptoms or warning signs for high blood pressure, it’s often called a “silent killer.” That’s why regularly monitoring your blood pressure and understanding your results is another key prevention strategy. A blood pressure measurement includes two numbers: The top number measures systolic pressure, which is the force of the blood against the arteries when the heart beats, and the bottom number measures diastolic pressure, which is when the heart is relaxing between beats. A blood pressure reading of 120/80 is considered normal, while readings above 130/80 mean a diagnosis of high blood pressure.
Knowing your numbers could save your life. “Chronic uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage blood vessels and result in heart attack or stroke, the two leading causes of death in the U.S.,” said Dr. Venkatesh. “High blood pressure may also contribute to kidney disease, vision problems, and peripheral artery disease, but the good news is that high blood pressure can be controlled by taking prescribed medications and following a healthy lifestyle.”
Following The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or “DASH” dietary pattern, is one of the best ways to prevent or treat high blood pressure. This healthy approach includes eating plenty of fruits and vegetables plus whole grains, nuts, fish, lean meat and low-fat dairy products, while limiting added sugars and saturated fats. Sodium intake should not exceed 1500 mg per day, so it’s important to check the sodium content listed on the nutrition facts label for any packaged foods. Other key prevention strategies include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day, and avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Finally, be sure to talk with your doctor if you have any health concerns or challenges. Healthy blood pressure is a target within reach.
More than 1.5 million people in Texas are affected by asthma, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). However, this number does not include those who have the disease and have not yet been diagnosed. So, what exactly is asthma and what can you do about it?
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), asthma is a disease that causes the airways of the lungs to tighten and swell, making it difficult to breathe. When this occurs, it is referred to as an asthma attack and is often accompanied by coughing or wheezing. While asthma attacks only occur when triggered, the disease itself never goes away. Common asthma triggers, as stated by the CDC include:
Asthma is most common among children and young teens; however, adults can have it too. While asthma requires a diagnosis from a medical doctor, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Julie Tijerina recommends watching for these warning signs:
Depending on the severity of the asthma, a doctor may prescribe medicine to help with the attacks. To help mitigate and prevent asthma attacks, Tijerina also recommends following these steps:
Because we all lead different lifestyles, it is no surprise that dieting is not “one-size-fits-all.” Therefore, it is essential to follow a healthy eating regimen that is tailored to you and your daily needs. Sticking to a diet that is custom to you will both give you the energy that your body requires and help combat obesity and weight gain. Learn more by reading our March 2019 Newsletter or listen to Episode 9 to get more details.
Below is a quick tip/outline to “Becoming a Healthier You.”
FABLOW AgriLife is part of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s (FCH) unit that “helps Texans better their lives through science-based educational programs designed to improve the overall health and wellness of individuals, families, and communities.”