Alzheimer’s Disease: A Weighty Matter

Happy closeness senior couple sitting on the floorNew research suggests obesity and prediabetes or diabetes may make us more likely to have memory problems and develop Alzheimer’s. According to the American Diabetes Association, more than half of adults over the age of 65 have prediabetes. Prediabetes and health problems, such as having too much insulin in the body (insulin resistance), are mostly caused by obesity, little to no exercise, and loss of lean muscle mass that occurs with aging.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, the decline in mental abilities interfering with everyday life, and is more likely the older we get. Signs of Alzheimer’s can appear decades before the disease manifests. Most people begin to notice regular to frequent memory problems, such as forgetting conversations or how to get to and from familiar places.

When memory problems become clinically significant, but do not impact daily life activities like household chores or working, a person is diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Most people with MCI eventually develop Alzheimer’s in three to five years, although some individuals never do. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s requires not only constant memory problems worse than MCI, but significant impairment in daily life activities and at least one more cognition problem (i.e., speech, planning or reasoning, purposeful movement).

What can I do?
Studies increasingly suggest that prevention is best. If you are middle-aged or older, obese or severely overweight, ask your doctor. Suggest a waist circumference measurement to estimate your body fat. Have your blood sugar and insulin levels checked. If you have prediabetes, consider a weight loss program, moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day at least 3 days a week, or medication to lower blood sugar and insulin. If you have diabetes, it is critical to get it under control with the plan of care your doctor suggests.

If you are concerned you have memory problems, schedule an appointment with a neurologist or psychiatrist. Memory and thinking assessments can determine if your memory is impaired. Follow-up visits help track whether or not your memory remains the same or declines.

Source: Auriel A. Willette, MS, PhD, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University

Exercise Clothing Basics

Being physically active is important, and the right clothes and shoes can help reduce injury and make physical activity more comfortable. It’s all about the fabric and fit with clothing, so you don’t have to worry about the labels or latest fashions.

Fabric: Choose fabrics that pull sweat away from the skin and dry quickly. Most of these fabrics are made of polyester or polypropylene. These fabrics don’t soak the clothing. Look for terms such as Dri-fit, moisture-wicking, Coolmax, or Supplex. Cotton, on the other hand, absorbs sweat and leaves you feeling sweaty and uncomfortable.

Fit: Choose the fit that is most comfortable to you while not getting in the way of your activity. Loose clothing is fine for activities like running, basketball, and strength training. Form-fitting clothing works best for activities where clothing can get caught, like biking.

Shoes: Just as with clothing, your shoes should match the activity. Walking shoes are stiff, while running shoes are more flexible. For strength training, choose shoes that have good support. If you have issues with your feet or are unsure of the type of shoe you need, a store specializing in fitting shoes would be recommended. They are trained to determine the best shoe for you based upon your activity, gait, and feet.

Source: MedlinePlus

Walk Your Way to Fitness

elderly couple walking fitness activeThe American Heart Association says that a 30-minute walk a day can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, breast and colon cancer, and Type-2 diabetes.

The following tips can help you start walking with maximum safety and the most success.

  • Talk to your doctor. Consult a health care professional before starting a workout routine if you are not physically active.
  • Wear appropriate attire. This includes supportive shoes, good socks, breathable active wear, and a hat or cap to shield you from the sun or keep your head warm.
  • Remember to stretch. Avoid sore muscles and injury by stretching before and after you walk.
  • Start slow. Progressively increase the intensity and length of your walking regimen over time.
  • Plan a route. Use or another similar website to plan a walking route. There are also many free online walking videos that can be used indoors with no equipment other than shoes such as START! Walking at Home American Heart Association 3 Mile Walk (

Sources: American Heart Association, “Why Walking?”; eXtension Network,

Sweet Potato Fries

sweet-potato-friesServing Size: 2/3 cup and 1 T dip | Serves: 6


  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 medium)
  • 1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise or salad dressing
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, chili powder, or paprika


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Rinse potatoes under running water. Scrub potatoes well and peel, if desired.
  3. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise.
  4. Lay each potato half flat and slice into half-round shapes about 1/4” thick.
  5. Combine potatoes, oil, and salt in a bowl. Stir so potatoes are covered with oil.
  6. Grease cookie sheet with oil and lay potato slices in a single layer.
  7. Bake for about 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes.
  8. Mix the dip ingredients while potatoes are baking.
  9. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information per serving: 150 calories, 4g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 5mg cholesterol, 220mg sodium, 26g total carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 6g sugar, 2g protein

This recipe is courtesy of the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website of ISU Extension and Outreach,

Save Money, Eat Well

woman grocery store shopping produceWhen grocery prices go up, it may not seem possible to eat healthy foods while on a budget. However, eating healthy on a budget is possible when following a few tips.

Five tips to save money while eating nutritiously:

  1. Look for deals and plan your meals! Plan your meals around weekly ad specials and what you have on hand in the refrigerator, freezer, and cupboards.
  2. Buy in season. Seasonal produce often costs less and has better taste. Visit to find out which foods are in season.
  3. Schedule a day to cook. Cook large batches of your favorite recipes to portion out and freeze for quick-fix meals throughout the week. For easy recipes to freeze, order the cookbook Healthy in a Hurry—14 Main Dishes for Now or Later from the ISU Extension Online Store (
  4. Get creative. Make it a game with leftovers to find ways to incorporate them into meals and snacks before they are no longer safe to eat. Use fruit in smoothies, put leftover vegetables in pasta, or use leftover meat in a stir fry.
  5. Shop smart. Check the unit price on items and compare brands to get the best value. Use unit prices to not only compare brands and product sizes but also to compare forms of a food like fresh, frozen, and canned. Visit the ISU Extension and Outreach Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website ( for more information on unit prices.

Source: Choose My Plate Tip Sheet: Eating Better on a Budget,

Get Moving in Your Community

young kids bike summer active fitnessStudies show that individuals are more physically active if the environment provides them with opportunities to do so. Examine your neighborhood, workplace, or school to identify ways to make your surroundings more inviting for walking or exercise. Here are four ideas to consider:

  • Start a walking group in your neighborhood or at your workplace.
  • Make the streets safe for exercise by driving the speed limit and yielding to people who walk, run, or bike.
  • Participate in local planning efforts to develop a walking or bike path in your community.
  • Share your ideas for improvement with your neighbors or local leaders.

Source: Opportunities Abound for Moving Around, May 2015,

Recipe for Safe Food

couple cooking in kitchen mealsMost recipes do not include proper food safety precautions.The online Recipe Tool automatically adds the critical food safety steps into favorite recipes or those found online. The tool was developed by the USDA, in partnership with the FDA and the CDC, as a reminder to keep food safe.
To use the Recipe Tool:
  1. Access the link at
  2. Type your favoriterecipes into the boxesor insert the recipeURL from a popularcooking website intothe tool to get foodhandling reminders.Food handling remindersinclude clean, separate,cook, and chill.

Source:, Keep Food Safe Blog,

Are You Sitting Too Much?

Most adults spend half their waking day sitting behind a desk, in front of a computer or TV, or riding in a car. Sitting is linked to a higher risk of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Research shows a 14 percent higher risk of these chronic diseases among those who sit for eight or more hours daily. Everyone who engages in prolonged sitting can be at risk, even those who are physically active each day. Prolonged sitting is a lifestyle risk factor that can be addressed by changing lifestyle habits. See the list below for ways to get more activity into your day.

Source: American College of Cardiology; Study Bolsters Link between Heart Disease, Excessive Sitting; March 2015

3 Ways to Move More:

1. Sit less. Notice the time you spend sitting and break up long stretches with movement. Pace while talking on the phone. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take a walk during lunch.

2. Engage in aerobic exercise about 30 minutes each day. Aim for 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (activity that causes your heart rate to increase).

3. Do resistance training at least two days a week. This type of exercise challenges major muscle groups to near exhaustion in 8–12 repetitions.
Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new physical activity routines.

Walk Your Way to Fitness

This publication includes a sample walking program, a “talk test,” and tips on comfortable clothing.

Download at:

Quick Fruit Dessert

fruit dessertServing Size: 1/2 cup | Serves: 8

8 vanilla wafers
2 cups low fat or nonfat milk
1 box (3.5 ounces) instant vanilla pudding
1 cup fresh fruit (peaches, nectarines, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, etc.)

1. Place one vanilla wafer on bottom of a small paper or plastic cup or a small bowl. Do the same for each vanilla wafer.
2. Pour milk into a bowl, add pudding mix, and prepare pudding according to the directions on the box.
3. Top each vanilla wafer with 1/4 cup vanilla pudding.
4. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes to 8 hours.
5. Top with washed and cut up fresh fruit just before serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 90 calories, 1g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 220mg sodium, 19g total carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 17g sugar, 2g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website,

Orthorexia: An Obsession with Eating Pure

When obesity is a national emergency, a serious dedication to a healthy diet hardly seems like a bad thing. But, for some, a fixation on healthy eating develops into an obsession. If someone refuses to eat food that is not “pure,” starts skipping family meals or dinners out, rejects food they once loved, or can’t bring themselves to eat a meal they haven’t prepared with their own hands, they may be suffering from an emerging disordered eating pattern called orthorexia.

What is Orthorexia?

Orthorexia — an unhealthy fixation on eating only healthy or “pure” foods — was originally defined as a disordered eating behavior in the ‘90s, but experts believe it has been gaining steam in recent years, fed by the number of foods marketed as healthy and organic, and by the media’s often conflicting dietary advice. Like anorexia nervosa, orthorexia is a disorder rooted in food restriction. Unlike anorexia, for othorexics, the quality instead of the quantity of food is severely restricted.

If someone is orthorexic, they typically avoid anything processed like white flour or sugar. A food is virtually untouchable unless it’s certified organic or a whole food. Even something like whole-grain bread — which is a very healthy, high-fiber food — is off limits because it’s been processed in some way.

Orthorexics typically don’t fear being fat in the way that an anorexic would, but the obsessive and progressive nature of the disorder is similar.

Orthorexics may eliminate entire groups of food — such as dairy or grains — from their diets, later eliminating another group of food, and another, all in the quest for a “perfect” clean, healthy diet. In severe cases, orthorexia eventually leads to malnourishment when critical nutrients are eliminated from the diet.

Orthorexics often have misunderstandings about food or nutrition. People with eating disorders know a lot about food and food science, but they don’t always have accurate information. Sometimes their sources are magazines and blogs that might not be reputable.

For more information about eating disorders, visit the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders,

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,