2017-09-14 / Front Page

Health department promoting benefits of eating fruits, veggies

The United States Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) has highlighted the month of September by promoting its campaign “Fruits and Veggies – More Matters,” which focuses on the many health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.

Specifically, the campaign hones in on the positive impact consuming those foods has on heart disease, Type Two diabetes, certain types of cancer, obesity, and high blood pressure.

According to the department, “communities, health professionals, businesses, and families can work together to encourage people to eat more fruits and vegetables.”

“Fruits and vegetables are a great way to ‘bulk’ up meals without sac­rificing flavor. They can also replace high calorie options we add to our foods every day,” Lincoln County Health Department Nurse Manager Hilary Daniel explained. “For ex­ample, replacing cheese with onions and peppers in a breakfast omelet reduces calories, but increases flavor and fiber content. It’s a good way to help you feel fuller longer.”

Likewise, adding bananas or strawberries to cereal instead of an extra fourth of a cup of cereal still provides a full bowl of cereal, but with added nutrients and texture, she explained.

“It’s important to eat fruits and vegetables the way nature intended,” Daniel said, recommending mainly raw vegetables, but included that steamed or grilled is also a healthy option. “Boiling often times strips the product of nutrients and frying or adding butter increases caloric intake, so use herbs and spices to enhance flavor.

“Always choose fruit over store- bought fruit juices or juice your own produce at home. Store bought juices often lack the nutrients and fiber content from the actual fruit itself. And, in most cases, fruit juices contain more calories than the actual piece of fruit. Likewise, always choose fresh fruit over dried fruit for a lower calorie treat with more nutrients,” Daniel said.

Those with ODPHP have also listed innovative ideas to help indi­viduals and families fit more fruits and vegetables into their daily meal habits.

Suggestions include: l Keep a bowl of fruit handy where the whole family can see it. l Cut up fruits and veggies ahead of time so they’re ready for quick, healthy snacks. l Challenge your family to try a new veggie or fruit every week.

This particular initiative also goes hand-in-hand with September’s other designation as “Healthy Aging Month.” Promoted by the 20-year initiative known as Healthy Aging, the public is reminded that self- care and proactive wellness should always be a priority.

This initiative is designed to focus on the positive aspects of growing older.

According to the Centers for Dis­ease Control (CDC), healthy aging is achieved through four strategic directions set forth by The National Prevention Strategy.

Those directions are healthy and safe community environments, clinical and community preventative services, empowered people, and elimination of health disparities.

“These strategies include the obvious things, like ensuring safe and well-lit sidewalks for exercis­ing and expanding the availability of community- and home-based services, but it also includes things many people don’t consider, like increasing visibility of road signage to allow for safer driving,” Daniel said, reporting that it’s known that 61 percent of older adults restrict driving to certain hours of the day and 21 percent admit to missing out on certain activities because of driving limitations.

“A major component of healthy aging is taking care of yourself. This includes doctor’s visits, dental checkups, and regular low-impact exercise,” Daniel continued. “This also encompasses mental health issues. Depression and anxiety are often times overlooked, misdiag­nosed, and under treated, because it’s treated as a natural reaction to aging.”

She included that it’s important to note that Medicare covers annual screenings that require physicians to screen for medical health conditions. Medicare also includes a program for promoting fitness called Silver Sneakers.

Silver Sneakers is a free fitness program for seniors that includes access to thousands of gyms across the United States. The Lincolnton Athletic Club is a proud participant of Silver Sneakers with over 70 members to date.

“This is an excellent community resource that provides a safe facility to work out at at any time of day,” Daniel said.

She further stated that, “empow­ering the aging population will also contribute to a decrease in mental health concerns. We must create and uphold a culture where the older population is valued, appreciated, and be viewed as an asset rather than burden. They are the cornerstone of organizations and churches in the community and should still be viewed as vivacious, productive members of society.

“Empowering this population also means making them aware of the benefits of physical activity, good nutrition habits, and other healthy options. Increasing these adults ac­cess to technology can play a major role in achieving these goals. This is a good opportunity for the older generation to interact and bond with the younger generation for a com­mon goal,” Daniel said.

The CDC also strongly recom­mends that adults get a flu shot every year, but vaccination rates remain low. Human immune defense be­comes weaker in older age, placing the older population at risk for more severe illnesses related to influenza. Receiving a flu shot, whether the regular quadrivalent vaccine or the high-dose vaccine (recommended for those over 65), can protect from the devastating effects of the flu virus.

The health department has both vaccines available, and no appoint­ment is necessary.

For more information, contact the department at 706-359-3154.

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