Music and Brain Health

Playing piano

A growing body of research suggests that music may be more than just entertaining but is also health-promoting and helps manage certain disease symptoms. Performing or listening to music activates the parts of the brain involved in sensation, movement, thinking, and emotions. By engaging our brains in this way, music can evoke emotional reactions and memories, promote social bonds, and even changes our brain’s physical structure.

Early research shows that music-based therapy has positive effects on physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs. Music therapists are trained health professionals who provide music therapy in settings like hospitals, nursing homes, and schools. Music therapy may involve activities like music listening, performance, and improvisation. People with anxiety, depression, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis may benefit from music therapy.

Enjoying and creating music with others is also a wonderful way to increase social and community connections. When we sing or play music with others, we support brain health while having fun!

For more information on music and health research, visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, www.nccih.nih.gov.

Double Up Food Bucks

Vegetables

The Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) Incentive Program helps Iowans with low incomes buy fresh fruits and vegetables. It is also a way to support local economies in your community.

You must use your SNAP EBT card to buy fresh produce at participating grocery stores or farmers markets. DUFB will give you an extra dollar for every dollar you spend up to $10 on fruits and vegetables. That means you can buy even more produce.

If you live in Iowa, visit the Healthiest State Initiative, iowahealthieststate.com, to find a DUFB location near you. If you are not in Iowa, check out Double Up Food Bucks, doubleupamerica.org, to find participating grocery stores and farmers markets in your area.

Chronic Conditions? Stay Active

Being active is helpful for people with chronic health conditions. It can help people with arthritis by making their joints less stiff and reducing bone loss for those with osteoporosis. And if you have diabetes, it can even help lower blood-sugar levels.

Due to your health condition, you may be unable to do 30 minutes of aerobic physical activity five days a week or muscle-strengthening exercise at least twice a week. Try your best to stay active by doing what you can. The key is to keep moving.

Do you enjoy walking? Check out the Walk with Ease program, www.walkwitheaseisu.org. The program was developed by the Arthritis Foundation for people over 60 with arthritis. Those with other chronic conditions will find it helpful also.

Talk with your healthcare professional before starting a new exercise. They can help you select a safe activity and identify necessary changes or precautions.

Women walking

Sources: Exercise and Chronic Disease: Get the Facts, www.mayoclinic.org

Make Brain-healthy Lifestyle Choices

Man chopping vegetables

According to the Global Council on Brain Health, one way to keep your brain healthy is to make changes in your lifestyle. To reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, follow these tips:

  1. Make healthy food choices—eat berries, whole grains, fatty fish, vegetables, and lean protein.
  2. Complete crossword puzzles, read books, or take anew class to stimulate your brain.
  3. Use guided meditation or practice deep breathing to reduce stress.
  4. Aim for 7–9 consecutive hours of sleep by turning off electronic devices before bed.
  5. Stay connected with friends and family or participate in a local congregate meal site to remain socially active.
  6. Be sure to move in any way you enjoy, such as dancing, gardening, and vacuuming.

Source: Healthy Living While Aging, extension.unr.edu/

Water Is Essential for Good Health

Glass of water

Water makes up about 50% to 70% of your body weight. It is essential for maintaining body temperature; lubricating and cushioning joints; and getting rid of waste. Drinking water during or after a meal also aids digestion. The amount of water your body needs depends on many factors, including your health, how active you are, and where you live.

You are likely getting enough water if you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is colorless or light yellow. You will need more fluids to keep hydrated during exercise or on hot summer days. To make sure your body has the fluids it needs, make water your beverage of choice. It’s a good idea to drink water with meals; before, during, and after exercise; and when you feel thirsty.

Source: Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/

Berry and Greens Smoothies

Serving Size: 8 ounces | Serves: 8

Glass of smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium bananas
  • 2 containers (6 ounces each) nonfat vanilla yogurt
  • 3 cups leafy greens, washed (kale or spinach)
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen berries
  • 1 cup nonfat milk

Directions:

  1. Put bananas, yogurt, and greens in the blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. Add berries to blender. Blend until smooth.
  3. Add milk to blender. Blend until smooth.
  4. Serve immediately or freeze in individual servings.

Nutrition information per serving:
100 calories, 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 50mg sodium, 23g total carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 12g total sugar, 4g protein

This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu

Good Gut Health

Bowls of fruit and grains

Did you know that your digestive system plays an essential role in your overall health? Nurturing a population of good gut bacteria is good for your health. What you eat may encourage the growth of good or bad bacteria. For example, avoiding processed foods, high-fat foods, and foods high in added sugars is important for maintaining a healthy gut. Eating high-fiber and fermented foods actively promotes the growth of good gut bacteria.

High-fiber foods are a good source of prebiotics. Prebiotics are the fuel for your good gut microbes. High-fiber foods include legumes, like black beans and chickpeas; whole grains, including whole wheat and oatmeal; vegetables; nuts; and fruits. Eating high-fiber foods may help build a strong immune system; improve digestion, sleep, and brain health; and support heart health.

Fermented foods are great sources of probiotics. Probiotics are living friendly bacteria. The goal is for these helpful organisms to take up residence in your gut and replace other less helpful or even harmful bacteria. Fermented foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi.

This month’s recipe, Berry and Greens Smoothies, has both high fiber and fermented foods. Bananas, frozen berries, and greens are high in fiber and yogurt is a fermented food; try it today!

Sources:
Healthline, www.healthline.com/health/gut-health
Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter, nutritionletter.tufts.edu/

Smartphone Apps and Fitness Trackers May Be Helpful Ways to Increase Physical Activity

If you are looking for ways to be more active, you may want to consider using an app or fitness tracker.

  • Look at different apps and decide if there is one best suited for the activity you enjoy. Consider asking a friend to join you in using the same app.
  • If you are competitive, a physical activity app might be effective at getting you moving and staying on track. Many apps include exercise role-playing games that use competition and exercise challenges to encourage and motivate users.
  • Social support can have a positive impact on increasing physical activity levels. Sharing your activity on social media platforms and receiving feedback from friends and followers can be encouraging.
Man with yoga mat

Forbes Health shares the following 2023 Best Apps:

  • Best Free App: Nike Training Club
  • Best Live Classes: FitOn
  • Best for Working Out Solo: GymShark Training
  • Best Personalized Training Plans: Adidas Training
  • Best for Modifications: Workout for Women
  • Best HIIT Workouts Freeletics: HIIT Fitness Coach
  • Best for Daily Challenges: 30 Day Fitness at Home
  • Best for Strength Training: Jefit
  • Best for Quick Workouts: Daily Workouts—Home Trainer

Source: British Medical Journal, www.bmj.com/company/

Tips to Avoid Food Poisoning When Eating Out

Hamburger and chips
  • Check inspection scores. Check a restaurant’s score on the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals website, iowa.safefoodinspection.com. Inspections are a “snapshot” of the day and time of the inspection.
  • Look for certificates that show kitchen managers have completed food safety training.Refrigerate your leftovers quickly.
  • Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of when the food was prepared (or 1 hour if the food is exposed to temperatures above 90°F, like in a hot car or at a picnic). Eat leftovers within 3 to 4 days. Throw them out after that time.

Source: CDC Food Safety and Eating Out, www.cdc.gov

Strategies to Help When Cooking for One or Two

Woman cooking
  1. Prepare Semi-homemade Meals. Semi-homemade is a combination of packaged foods and unprocessed foods. For example, you can use frozen stir-fry mix with canned chicken and instant rice. Grab a frozen chicken alfredo dinner and pair it with a salad and a cup of milk.
  2. Choose Simple Recipes. You can make delicious meals with just 5 ingredients for a quick meal. Benefits of choosing simple recipes include that they are easy, they take less time to prepare, and there is less food waste.
  3. Cut Recipes in Half. Cutting a large recipe in half is a great way to make cooking and preparation easier. Soups and casseroles are recipes that are easy to cut in half.
  4. Use Canned and Frozen Food. Choosing canned or frozen food is a quick addition to any meal. Add canned chicken in a chicken salad sandwich or prepare frozen veggies by microwaving them. Canned and frozen food items are budget friendly, provide smaller portions, have a longer shelf life, and reduce food waste, making them just as nutritious as fresh food items.
  5. Enjoy Leftovers. You can also cook once and enjoy a second meal later. Recipes serving more than two can be easily prepared, divided in half, and frozen to enjoy later. Sloppy Joes is an example of a recipe that freezes well.

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