All posts by Nancy N Wilson

Are You at Risk for Diabetes?

Diabetes Testing
Free photo 82963377 © creativecommonsstockphotos – Dreamstime.com

You haven’t been feeling very well the last couple of days, and have had trouble concentrating.

You’re always thirsty and constantly running to the restroom.

And . . . the headaches are driving you crazy.

What’s Going On? 

The quick answer is that it may be high blood sugar. But before you panic, ask yourself some questions about the last few days. 

  • Are you under an excessive amount of stress?
  • Have you been eating a lot of unhealthy foods?
  • Did you stop exercising?
  • Have you eaten an excessively carb-heavy meal?

Any of these can lead to a blood sugar spike.

An occasional spike doesn’t mean that you are immediately at risk for poor health, but consistently high blood sugar is serious.

It is often related to Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

Two Types of Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, known as juvenile or childhood diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin – and requires insulin injections.

Scientists think it is either genetic or caused by environmental factors like a virus that can trigger the disease.

Type 2 diabetes is more common and typically develops in older children and adults, but can occur at any age.

With this type, the individual’s body does not  respond to insulin as well as it should and in advanced stages, the body doesn’t make enough insulin.

Type 2 can often be controlled by diet and lifestyle changes.

Primary Risk Factor

The primary risk factor is obesity – which afflicts more than 1 in 3 people in the U.S.

 If you are extremely overweight and have been for a while, you should have your blood sugar levels checked regularly. Once diabetes develops, other health issues with the heart, kidneys, eyes, and blood vessels can appear.

In 2017 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that more than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes,

Medical News Today recently reported that 9% of the U.S. population have diabetes and it is the 7th leading cause of death.

Even if you are not diagnosed with diabetes, having higher-than-recommended blood sugar levels can be dangerous and indicate a condition known as “pre-diabetes.” An additional 38% of the population has been diagnosed with this condition.

What Is Blood Sugar?

The terms “sugar” and “glucose” are used interchangeably, but they are slightly different. When sugar is consumed it is converted to glucose (blood sugar) as a fuel source for the body. 

The brain prefers to burn glucose for energy, which means it is reliant on carbohydrates. But, the rest of the body can also burn fat for fuel in between carb-rich meals. Glucose storage is low in comparison to fat storage in the body.

If you do not eat enough carbs, small amounts of glucose can also be made through non-carbohydrate food sources. The body can also slowly learn to make ketones from fat, which can be supplementary brain food, if necessary.

Glucose Levels Must Be Controlled

Glucose powers the body, but uncontrolled levels can be dangerous.

Diabetes is uncontrolled high blood sugar (glucose) levels.

When you are healthy, blood glucose levels are controlled by the secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Insulin is a regulator that lowers blood glucose levels, as needed.

When certain foods cause blood sugar levels to rise, insulin is secreted from the pancreas to normalize the levels and all is well.

With Type 2 diabetes, the cells don’t respond correctly to insulin and high levels of blood sugar occur which is called hyperglycemia.

Impact of Weight Gain and Weight Loss

A definite link has not been established between weight gain and increased blood glucose. However, one study showed weight gain increased the risk of diabetes.

Studies have also shown that weight loss can have major beneficial effects over time. Every kg of body weight lost annually was associated with a 33% lower risk of diabetes.

Even modest weight gain can have a substantial impact on the risk of diabetes.

Careful monitoring and maintenance of weight are important for overall health. This is particularly important if diabetes runs in your family or if you have been diagnosed with “pre-diabetes.”

Are You at Risk?

It is important to listen your body – to pay attention to how you feel. Headaches, feeling thirsty frequently and have to pee a lot are indicators of potential problems and should be discussed with your doctor.

American Diabetes Association offers a quick Type 2 Diabetes Risk Test. The link will take you to the site.

Your health is your most important asset. Take good care of it! A few simple steps to keep you are track and ensure a long, healthy life.

  • Eat a healthy diet, be sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
  • Avoid junk food/fast foods – the additives and sugar content are harmful to your mind and body. 
  • Exercise regularly – to keep everything working as it should.
  • Have a complete physical checkup every year.
Fruits and Vegetables
Image by by Erdosain

Eat Well – Stay Well – Live Well.

I know you can do it.  

Adapted with permission from an article originally published on HVMN by Ryan Rodal

Related Articles: 5 Simple Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

Age in Place – Are You Prepared or Is There a “Rest Home” in Your Future?

Age in Place
Image by JacobLund@iStock

You are worried about what will happen to you as you get older.

You do not want to lose your independence.

Living somewhere else is not acceptable.  You love your home. 

It is your right to age on you own terms and in your own way

Everyone must plan for the future and how you will live as you approach your 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond.  The decisions you make today can affect your health, comfort, and safety during those years.

Many people are making  the decision to “age in place.”

Age in Place

The CDC defines this as “the ability to live in your own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”

At first glance, it seems like the ability to age in your home is simply a matter of keeping yourself healthy and active for as long as possible. That is an important piece of the puzzle, but not the only piece.

Choosing to age in place isn’t just about your home and your ability to remain active. It includes your connections and involvement with everything in your community.

Familiarity with your community/neighborhood gives you the confidence to move about and to engage with friends and neighbors.

I also allows for easy access to familiar health-enhancing resources like doctors (and other service providers), parks and walking trails, book club, and yoga class, etc. 

Risks of Isolation

The benefits of staying at home are important, but there is a downside.

A new study at Brigham Young University shows that prolonged loneliness and being socially isolated is the health equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. While friendships and meaningful relationships with others support our immune system, reduces our stress levels, and can actually reduce the risk of developing dementia.  

The author of the study and psychology professor, Tim Smith, said that the United States is facing a possible “loneliness epidemic,” revealing that more people live alone today than at any other time in recorded history.

The study’s co-author, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, states that,

Loneliness should be considered a serious health issue. Just as one starts planning financially long before retirement, we should also consider our social resources in planning for retirement.”

 It is easier to work on preventing loneliness than trying to work your way out of it.

These social resources of the choice to age in place include planning how you will stay connected and involved in your community.

Do you have a family – siblings, adult children, and grandchildren – nearby? Do you have both long-term friendships and a way to meet and make new friends?

If not, you can consider a service like Silvernest that provide ways to meet like-minded people – in this case, to make a roommate match. Having someone living in your home with you helps to create a new friendship and provides a safety net should you need help.

Home Adaptations

Now (not later) is the best time to plan and execute changes to your home that will keep you safe and comfortable.

No one likes to look at things that scream, “You are getting older,” like ugly grab bars in the bathrooms. Thank goodness the design of these features has come a long, long way. When you are ready, take the time to shop around. You can find things that keep you safe and are also aesthetically pleasing.

You may find that it’s the little things that limit you – like kitchen utensils or the height of your toilet. These can be easily fixed. There are great alternatives that people of any age would enjoy.

If you aren’t already familiar with them, check out the universal design features of OXO kitchen products, or bathrooms from Kohler that are designed well without feeling old.

Projects, like leveling floors from room to room, living on a single level, and widening doorways, are all important adaptations, but they are also more costly. This is particularly true of homes in older, desirable neighborhoods.

Experts advise that if you plan to age in your home, make adjustments while you are working and have an income to support the costs. Also, the disruption caused by home improvements is easier to live with when you aren’t recovering from an accident or struggling with a health problem.  

Take an inventory of your home. Look for anything that seems annoying or limiting to you now – even in the slightest. This will only be exacerbated as you get older.

Technology for the Ages

If you have aging parents, stay on the lookout for the developments in technology that will help them stay connected and remain as independent as possible.

Apps are available for caregivers to keep you informed on their care and activities.

We live in a “sharing economy” that makes it possible to have almost anything delivered to the front door.

Ten years ago it would have been unimaginable to get into a stranger’s car or to have a roommate as you age, but companies like UberLyft and Silvernest have made it the norm – and these are services you will rely on more as you get older.

The world offers many advantages that early generations couldn’t have imagined as they aged.

The most important advantage you have right now is your planning window to age in place. 

With a bit of thought, you can make plans that support both your physical and mental health and keep your home the vibrant and safe place it is today.

This is an adaptation with permission of the original article published at Silvernest.com.

Related Topic:  7 Foods that Accelerate Aging

7 Ways to Teach Your Children to Eat Healthy

Eat Healthy
Image by monkey_business

It is so frustrating.  I want my children to eat healthy, but the only vegetable Johnny will eat is raw carrots.

My youngest wants chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.

I try to get my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, but it seems like an uphill battle.

I talk to them about eating right all the time, but they just don’t seem to listen.

Children are visual learners — they watch, they see, they do.

So . . . let them “DO.” Turn your kitchen into a “learning lab.”

Cooking with Mom or Dad can be one of the most fun and educational experiences possible for children. And . . . it will create memories that last a lifetime.

Once you get them started, my guess is they will want to do a lot of cooking on their own.

My mom was a great basic cook — and never used a recipe (at least not that I can remember). It was her ability to cook delicious meals so effortlessly that inspired me to develop my own skill set.

Her gift to me was free rein in the kitchen to experiment and cook as often as I wanted. That freedom developed my passion for the art and an appreciation of what it takes to create good meals for the family.

If you want your children to enjoy long, healthy lives that are sustained by healthy eating habits, now is the time to start them on the right path.

Seven Ways to Inspire Them

One-on-One Time

Work with one child at a time. Let him/her be your partner in planning a healthy balanced dinner. When you finish planning, make a list of the groceries needed and take him/her shopping with you.

Shopping provides a first-hand experience for buying healthy foods like organic produce, pastured eggs, and grain-fed beef. They can also learn how to read labels to avoid dangerous additives (If they don’t know what it means, or can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.)

Keep a Stool in the Kitchen

Invite the children to watch while you cook. In the beginning, you can explain what you are doing, why you chose the foods you are using for good nutrition and how the flavors and textures make more interesting meals. Make the explanations fun and interesting.

Let them help whenever possible — reading the recipe, helping you measure, mixing dry ingredients together, tossing the salad, etc.

Kids are also great taste testers, which is a smart way to get them to sample new foods.

Start Them Early

How early? As soon as they show interest. Many four-year-olds love being in the kitchen.

Start with fun, easy foods like healthy snacks, breakfast meals, and sandwiches. Making cookies was a family favorite for my kids. Even with desserts, you can impress on them the importance of making foods from scratch — so they have control over the ingredients.

Depending on age and ability when preparing full meals, let them do as much as possible. Teach them how to peel and cut up vegetables, break lettuce leaves for the salad, combine and toss the salad, place chopped veggies in the steamer, wash the potatoes for baking, layer the foods for a casserole, etc.

As early as possible, teach them how to use knives safely. The younger ones can use kitchen scissors. It is easy to teach kitchen safety when they are cooking with you.

Introduce them to healthy cooking techniques: steaming, sautéing with healthy oils, baking, roasting, and broiling.

Family Night Cook-Off

This can be a wonderful family activity. One night a week have everyone help prepare dinner.

Each week have a different family member (including mom and dad) plan the menu, which must include a main dish, a vegetable, and dessert.

There should be no restrictions as long as the dishes are made from scratch with healthy ingredients**.

Before you start preparation, be sure everyone is clear about his/her responsibility. (Don’t forget setting the table, and clean up.)

A Family that Eats Together . . .

Always sit down together for dinner (and for breakfast as often as possible) The old adage, “A family that eats together, stays together” is still very true.

Sitting down to a healthy, delicious family dinner every night to eat, talk, and laugh is a powerful glue for holding the family together.

This has never been more important than it is today. Unfortunately, eating together is becoming less and less common. Don’t let that happen to your family.

Be Subtle When Introducing Habit Change

We live in a world of “super-sized” everything and frequent mindless eating, which makes portion contol more difficult.

Over the years, the average size of a dinner plate has increased from seven or eight inches to 12 inches.

Rather than preaching portion control that may or may not work, buy and use smaller plates (nine inches max) for your meals so the plate looks full, with less food.

You will probably have to buy “lunch” plates in order to get a smaller size. They can be purchased on Amazon and Target.

It would be wise to fill the plates and serve (rather than having people serve themselves). Keep the serving sizes reasonable — leave a little white space around the portions — avoid stacking.

Also, discourage mindless munching of unhealthy snacks when sitting at the computer or while watching TV.

Always have healthy snacks available. For example, fresh fruit (washed and ready to eat), plain yogurt topped with fresh berries and drizzled with a little honey, or real cheese and 100% whole-grain crackers.

Create Eating Adventures

Introduce new foods often. Make it fun. This helps develop a willingness to try new foods.

If you have a picky eater, adding something new to the menu with foods they already like can increase their repertoire of nutritious foods.

The rule in our family was they must each one bite of everything served. It worked most of the time. As adults, three out of four of my children eat almost everything.

If over time there are foods that several family members really dislike, don’t worry about it. There are enough healthy foods available they can still maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

The habit of healthy eating begins early — at home. As a parent, it is important to take every opportunity to help your children develop a positive attitude toward healthy eating so they can live long, productive lives.

Final Factors to Consider

Are you setting the example you want your children to follow? What changes do you need to make?

By implementing any or all of the above suggestions, you will be helping you children to enjoy preparing and eating healthy foods. 

Adventures in the kitchen and eating well will become family traditions. 

**When you prepare meals from scratch, you have full control over the ingredients and you know that your family is getting the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.

We recommend TWEENS and TEENS, A Cookbook to Get You Started, as a useful tool to use with those just learning to cook.

Related Article:  Stock Your Kitchen with Healthy Foods

8 FOODS THAT ACCELERATE AGING

Eating is such a pain – especially when you live alone.

It’s too much trouble to cook; McDonald’s or Taco Bell and quicker and easier.

You are a little concerned about your choices, but millions of people eat fast food.  It can’t really be that bad. 

Does It Really Matter?

According to Timothy Harlan, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Tulane University School of Medicine, “Aging is basically a chronic inflammatory state. Can you look older because you’re eating crap? Absolutely.”

You are living in a time of unprecedented medical advances and healthy food options. You are  aware of how diet impacts your quality of life and the aging process. Yet, you continue to eat “crap” as Dr. Harlan calls it. WHY????

It’s Hard to Resist

Part of the problem is the heavy marketing by food manufacturers that bombard you with “pretend” healthy foods, when in fact they are not healthy and accelerate aging.   

To protect yourself from this ever-present danger and to control the aging process, you must do the following:

  • Be a conscious consumer
  • Educate yourself
  • Pay attention to your food choices
  • Always read labels
  • Buy and consume foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.  

What if you are already old?

I have friends who say,  “I’m so old, I have earned the right to eat whatever I want.” That may be true but, age is also supposed to bring wisdom. Eating crap is not wise!

Today, I am offering a list of eight foods types you should not eat if you want to age well.

I’m guessing with almost 100% certainty that many of you are consuming something on this list without realizing how bad it is for you.  

Processed Meats

Any meats that are not fresh are processed.

This includes many of your favorites such as hot dogs, bacon, pepperoni, sausage, corned beef, beef jerky, canned meat, meat sauces, and most packaged lunch meats. (Read labels carefully)

Processed meats are usually high in saturated fats and filled with nitrates. The preservatives promote the formation of free radicals, which damage DNA and accelerate aging.

Also, avoid smoked meats which contain pro-carcinogenics that can cause cancer.

Trans Fats

This is the worst type of fats for your health.

Trans fat, is a type of unsaturated fat that occurs in small amounts in nature. They are found in animal-based foods, such as steak and milk. The quantities are small and not dangerous to your health.  

Artificial trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, are very dangerous to your health.

We first saw them in the 1950s when food manufacturers started converting vegetable oils into solids.

They are still used regularly in many processed foods.  For example, margarine and other artificial spreads, snack foods, packaged baked goods (pies, cakes, cookies), and for frying fast foods (French fries, Churros, doughnuts, etc.)  

Partially hydrogenated oils are a common source of trans fats. It can be found in the list of ingredients on many food labels. Always read labels carefully.

Be aware that labels can list the trans-fat content as 0, even when there are 0.5 grams per serving. Because of the unreliability of that system, it is better to look for partially hydrogenated oils on the list of ingredients.

Trans fats raise your bad LDL cholesterol levels while lowering the good cholesterol, HDL. These fats increase risks for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Fatty Meats

These are also high in saturated fats. You can eat them occasionally, but it would be smart to limit your consumption. 

The best practice is to buy only leaner meats such as tenderloin cuts. Use 95% lean ground beef, or go with either ground turkey breast or ground chicken breast as healthier options.

Processed White Flour 

Refined white flour has been stripped of its nutrient value with virtually no vitamins, minerals, or fats.

It is used for commercial baked goods because it is light, airy, and cheap, but it is harmful to your health.

  • Most of your favorite junk foods are made from white flour.  Examples – white bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, pies, doughnuts, pretzels, chips, muffins, crackers, pizza crust, pie crust, and breakfast cereals.
Eat Whole Grains Instead

There are many rich and delicious whole grains available that curb inflammation – and slow down aging. You can choose from oatmeal, whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, and quinoa. 

These grains are also filled with B vitamins like thiamine and riboflavin that are particularly good for your skin – an important element in controlling signs of aging.

Vegetable Oils

These are advertised as healthy. But, corn and un-pure canola oils, have undergone thorough processing and refinement, using many toxic chemicals such as hexane in the process. The result is polyunsaturated fats that are heavily prone to oxidation when eaten.

The result? Increased inflammation in the body that speeds up aging and creates a sharper decline in health.

The best alternatives are extra virgin olive oil, avocado, flaxseed and grapeseed oils. (Again, be sure to read the labels to check for purity and additives)

Pastries, Sweets, Cookies, etc.

Pastries are often consumed for breakfast or snacks because they are easy to eat on the go and easy to carry. But, pastries are the perfect storm of health-sapping nutrients, containing both high quantities of saturated fats, trans fats, and sugars. All of which speed up your body’s natural oxidative processes, making you look older, more prone to illness, and susceptible to weigh gain.

Don’t forget that extra weight accelerates aging.

If you want to be healthy and slow down the aging process, you must eliminate sugar and sweets from your diet. At the very least, they should be limited to an occasional treat or for holidays and special occasions.

This is a tough one to control, but critical to your health.

Salty Foods

Yes, salt is necessary to make foods tastier and  more appetizing. Unfortunately, the amount of sodium the average American consumes is extremely high and far beyond safety levels for the body. 

The FDA recommends adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams daily. The average consumption is 3400 milligrams.

Sodium dehydrates the body and increases urination as a way to normalize electrolyte levels. This leaves you thirsty and craving more and more wate – not the way the body was meant to function.

Excess sodium intake can also compromise kidney health. It causes the accumulation of toxic waste material, and may even interfere with normal bone metabolic processes.

And . . . let’s not forget the one you probably already know. High sodium intake can cause high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease.

Is it worth the extra salt added to your meals – or the excessive amount of sodium in fast foods and salty snacks? Again – the choice is yours.

Alcohol

With the rise in popularity of the Mediterranean Diet, the possible health benefits of a single glass of red wine daily have been making the rounds. Sadly, the suggestion has not been kept in perspective, at least when it comes to quantity.

Many people do not have one glass per day. Instead, they opt for 3, 5 or 10. This is where things get bad. Alcohol taxes the liver more than any other substance. When the liver  is overwhelmed by processing the aldehydes from excessive amounts of  alcohol, it is unable to process real toxins and the body suffers.

Alcohol also has a pronounced effect on elastin and collagen in the skin, making it appear listless and saggy – indications of aging that no one wants.

When alcohol is not moderated, it causes a variety of chronic conditions that not only affects aging but also can result in premature death.

No Excuse for a Bad Diet

With the availability of healthy foods today, there is no excuse for a bad diet. It is the result of not caring, too lazy to change, or denial that how you eat affects how you look and feel.

Foods that accelerate aging
Image by Lightsource@Stockfresh

However, the “truth is out there” and you know the difference. 

Making a change in your eating patterns may be challenging, but it is worth the effort.  It leads to longer, healthier, happier lives. 

Choosing a healthy diet is a choice to protect yourself and your family from premature aging, susceptibility to health problems and not feeling your best.  

My challenge for you is to eliminate foods that accelerate aging – and start today!

I know you can do it. 

Related Article:  5 Simple Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

 

5 Simple Guidelines for a Healthy Diet

How would you rate your eating habits?  Good? Bad? Or somewhere in the middle?

Are you willing to change your habits to ensure a healthy, nutritious way of eating?

If so, you are in luck – below are 5 simple guidelines for a healthy diet.

Rule #1

First and foremost . . .  buy all-natural, whole, unprocessed foods. Avoid packaged, prepared foods that are loaded with additives, fillers, and preservatives.

Guidelines for a Healthy Diet
Image by Tijana

Rule #2

Cook from scratch using high-quality, fresh ingredients. Instead of spending your hard-earned money on instant foods and packaged meals, learn to create dishes using fresh and healthy ingredients.

Prepare highly nutritious dishes without all the harmful additives, excessive sugars, and fats.

For example – Create casseroles using brown Basmati rice, low-fat milk, fresh vegetables, and lean meats or chicken. I guarantee there will be fewer calories (and no additives).

Yes – cooking from scratch takes more time to prepare and requires developing a rhythm for creating healthy dishes on a regular basis.

With practice, you will become more and more efficient and dinners will go together quickly.

You need to be on the lookout for tips and tricks on how to cook ahead (making a portion or all of the meal the night before – or cooking several meals on the weekend that you can freeze.

Then, you can have dinner on the table in under an hour. (A good place to start is with my book, Cook Ahead – Freezer to Table,)

Rule #3

Keep only healthy desserts and snacks in your pantry and fridge.

Children (and adults) love a tasty snack after school (or work).

  • Keep a freezer full of frozen snacks such as fruit juice popsicles and frozen fruit – blueberries and grapes are especially good.
  • Always have a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter (or in the fridge) – ready for kids to grab, peel and eat.
  • Place a bowl in the fridge of sliced fresh fruit or vegetables – with a dip. Low-fat sour cream and powdered sugar ready for sprinkling (or vanilla Greek yogurt) are great for fruit; and guacamole or hummus for the veggies.
  • Have cans or bags of nuts available for little hands to grab and eat.
  • Offer string cheese to nibble on. This provides quick protein for energy and calms the appetite until dinner.

Rule #4

Buy lean meats – Leaner cuts of meat are the best choice. Always cook a little more than your family will eat and use leftovers for healthier lunches and to create new dishes for an easy weekend meal.

Rule #5

Use healthier oils – My preference is olive oil, which is great for making salad dressings and also for cooking (but not for baking) – use pure canola oil for baking, when required.

If you are watching calories try scrambling eggs or sautéing foods, with cooking sprays. (My preference is PAM® Cooking Spray.) But, having said that, a little butter goes a long way and is much tastier.

There you have it – five simple guidelines for a healthy diet.

All you have to do is choose to follow them, and you will be on your way to a healthier, happier life.

You will look forward to each day with greater enthusiasm, you will have the energy to meet the demands of your busy life, and you will enjoy a wonderful sense of well-being.

The next post will include more specific suggestions on types of foods  to fill your pantry that will make eating healthy easier.