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Category Archives: Health

Eat Well to Be Well:Learn the truth about 5 food myths

Discerning between food truths and food myths is really hard sometimes. From excellent nutrition advice to extremely bad to downright dangerous nutrition advice, what’s a consumer to do? Since all of us have to eat and all of us are consumers of food, knowing the truth of how to follow a healthy, nutritious diet can get lost in the shuffle of nutrition myths – which have grown exponentially over the years.

Unfortunately, there will be those who, without any nutrition degrees or backing of science, feel compelled to enlighten us on their opinion on what a healthy diet should be. But don’t be swayed. Here are some common diet and food myths you deserve to know the truth behind the tale:

KDHE issues air quality health advisory due to prescribed burns

TOPEKA, Kan. – Prescribed burning within the Flint Hills region yesterday has contributed to elevated air pollutant levels for parts of Kansas this morning, April 14, 2021. Additional burning today will continue to impact air quality for the southern Flint Hills westward, including Wichita, the Red Hills region, and perhaps as far west as Liberal.

The Air Quality Index (AQI) will likely range from moderate to unhealthy for sensitive groups, and even unhealthy at times for localized areas today through Thursday. The most significant impacts will occur during the evening, overnight and mornings hours. View the current air quality and AQI for specific areas on www.airnow.gov.

Burning within the Flint Hills occurs annually to help preserve the tallgrass prairie, control invasive species such as eastern red cedar and sumac, and provide better forage for cattle. Prescribed burning minimizes risk of wildfires and is used in managing rangeland resources. Smoke from the burns can influence the air quality of downwind areas and can be carried long distances.

Prescribed burns release large amounts of particulate matter and substances that can form ozone. Particulate matter and ozone can cause health problems, even in healthy individuals. Common health problems include burning eyes, runny nose, coughing, and illnesses such as bronchitis. Individuals with respiratory issues, pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children, and elderly may experience worse symptoms.

Steps to protect your health on days when smoke is present:

  • Healthy people should limit or avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
  • People with respiratory or heart related illnesses should remain indoors.
  • Help keep indoor air clean by closing doors and windows and running air conditioners with air filters.
  • Keep hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  • Contact a doctor if showing symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath or severe fatigue.

KDHE and partners continue to implement the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan to help mitigate air quality impacts that result from burning. The plan includes recommendations to minimize and disperse the smoke produced by burning. For more information about the burning in the Flint Hills and the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan, see www.ksfire.org.

Kansas pauses Johnson & Johnson vaccine administration

TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment announced that Kansas will pause administration of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine following an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration this morning. There are reports of six recipients in the United States who developed a rare disorder involving blood clots within about two weeks of vaccination. No known cases have been reported in Kansas to date.

“Just as important as getting vaccines into arms is making sure those vaccines are safe,” Gov. Laura Kelly said. “While this appears to have affected six people in the nearly seven million doses administered, out of an abundance of caution, Kansas will suspend Johnson & Johnson until the CDC and FDA clear it for use again. In the meantime, we anticipate our shipments of Pfizer and Moderna to continue and we will build on the one-third of Kansans who have already received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The federal government will further study links between the vaccine and the rare blood clotting disorder. An emergency meeting of the CDC’s advisory committee has been scheduled for Wednesday.

KDHE asks providers with Johnson & Johnson vaccine to pause administration of the vaccine immediately and to place the supply into storage while material is reviewed. After KDHE has reviewed the findings from the federal government, further guidance will be given to providers on next steps.

Those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should contact their health care provider if they have any symptoms and report any illness to the VAERS Reporting System, vaers.hhs.gov.

The week of April 19, 2021, Kansas is anticipated to receive the following doses: 39,780 Pfizer Prime, 38,610 Pfizer Boost, 29,000 Moderna Prime, 27,800 Moderna Boost.


Joint statement from CDC and FDA

As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have been administered in the U.S. CDC and FDA are reviewing data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. In these cases, a type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis was seen in combination with low levels of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia). All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination. Treatment of this specific type of blood clot is different from the treatment that might typically be administered. Usually, an anticoagulant drug called heparin is used to treat blood clots. In this setting, administration of heparin may be dangerous, and alternative treatments need to be given.

CDC will convene a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices on Wednesday to further review these cases and assess their potential significance. FDA will review that analysis as it also investigates these cases. Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution. This is important, in part, to ensure that the health care provider community is aware of the potential for these adverse events and can plan for proper recognition and management due to the unique treatment required with this type of blood clot.

Eat Well to Be Well: 5 snacks with misleading health halos

Starting with rice cakes, for one …

Americans love their snacks and the snack industry knows this. If you look at the global snacks market in 2018, it was valued at $439.9 billion and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.2 percent from now to 2025.

The demand for snacks is driven by changing diets and busy lifestyles. Many of us are replacing meals with long shelf-life, on-the-go snacks as the demand for more allergen-free and vegan products increase.

If you fit into the category of someone who chooses a “snack” as a meal replacement, how healthy is that snack you’re choosing? Before you stock up on snacks you believe to be healthy, here’s a look at five supposedly “healthy” snacks that rarely meet that criteria.

Rice cakes

Rice cakes are often deemed as healthy due to their minimal ingredients. One reason why they are low in calories is because they do not carry a laundry list of ingredients – the main ingredient is obviously … rice.

If you crave something crunchy, then rice cakes fit the bill. But nutritionally, they offer little more than carbohydrates for energy. They contribute calories but lack fiber and important key vitamins or minerals. Flavored rice cakes are going to have either added sugar or artificial flavors or both. Avoid rice cakes drizzled with chocolate or other sweet flavors as they then are really no better than candy.

How to improve this choice: Opt instead for unflavored, lightly salted rice cakes made from brown rice or other grains such as quinoa. Quinoa is a fair source of protein and brown rice offers a bit more fiber than white rice. And stay away from “sugared up” rice cakes.

KDHE issues social guidelines for Kansans who are vaccinated

TOPEKA, Kan. – In conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued Monday for those who have been vaccinated, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment is issuing similar guidance in Kansas.

Two weeks after Kansans receive their completed vaccination (two weeks after the second dose for Pfizer and Moderna, two weeks after the single dose for Johnson & Johnson), Kansans may begin to gather in their private homes with other fully vaccinated people, in small groups, without masks or social distancing.

The guidance also allows for vaccinated people to gather in private homes with unvaccinated people so long as the unvaccinated people are from a single household and are at low risk for developing severe disease.

“These changes are an important step in moving forward,” said Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary. “This will allow grandparents to socialize with families, friends and neighbors to gather.”

While private home guidance has changed for those who are fully vaccinated, public health measures in public still apply to everyone, including those vaccinated. It is advised to:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Avoid poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

“Thank you for continuing to keep your fellow Kansans safe,” Norman said.

Health Advisory: Safety tips issued during Flint Hills burning season

Kansas range fire. Flint Hills Smoke Management photo.

Smoke modeling tool to be activated March 1

TOPEKA, Kan. – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment is reminding Kansans that March and April are a time when large areas of the state’s Flint Hills rangeland are burned. These burns help preserve the tallgrass prairie, control invasive species such as Eastern Red Cedar and sumac, and provide better forage for cattle. Prescribed burning minimizes risk of wildfires and is effective in managing rangeland resources. Smoke from the burns can influence the air quality of downwind areas. The use of smoke management techniques reduces impacts.

KDHE will activate the Kansas smoke modeling tool March 1, 2021, prior to widespread burning in the Flint Hills. The computer models use fire data and current weather conditions to predict the potential contribution of smoke to downwind air quality problems. There are approximately 2.1 million acres burned on average in the Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma each year.

“We encourage ranchers and land managers to take advantage of this smoke modeling resource to spread out their burns more effectively and mitigate potential air quality impacts,” said Douglas Watson, meteorologist at the KDHE Bureau of Air. “For burns to be safe and effective, weather and rangeland conditions must be ideal. Many landowners will burn at the same time when such conditions are met. Air pollutants from the burns can affect persons in the Flint Hills and can be carried long distances to more populated areas.”

Prescribed burns release large amounts of particulate matter and substances that can form ozone. Particulate matter and ozone can cause health problems, even in healthy individuals. Common health problems include burning eyes, runny nose, coughing and illnesses such as bronchitis. Individuals with respiratory issues, pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children and elderly may experience worse symptoms.

Steps to protect your health on days when smoke is present in your community include:

  • Healthy people should limit or avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
  • People with respiratory or heart related illnesses should remain indoors.
  • Help keep indoor air clean by closing doors and windows and running air conditioners with air filters.
  • Keep hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  • Contact your doctor if you have symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath or severe fatigue.

ECKAAA nutrition program joins nationwide ‘March for Meals’ celebration

East Central Kansas Area Agency on Aging Nutrition Program has announced it will participate in the 19th annual March for Meals – a month-long, nationwide celebration of Meal on Wheels and senior neighbors who rely on this essential service. ECKAAA Nutrition Program’s celebration will include various activities throughout the month of March.

ECKAAA Nutrition program serves six counties in Kansas including Anderson, Coffey, Franklin, Linn, Miami, and Osage. In those counties there are 24 nutrition sites. The program delivers meals to these sites three to five days a week; the number of meals that goes out daily is about 700, not including frozen meals delivered for weekends. The program serves the most vulnerable population in this area, who depend on the meals to remain healthy and independent at home, now even more so amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual March for Meals celebration commemorates the historic day in March of 1972 when President Nixon signed into law a measure that amended the Older Americans Act of 1965 to include a national nutrition program for seniors 60 years and older. Since 2002, community-based Meals on Wheels programs from across the country have joined forces for the annual awareness campaign to celebrate this successful public-private partnership and garner the support needed to fill the gap between the seniors served and those still in need.

“The pandemic has introduced many of us to the newfound and harsh realities of food insecurity and social isolation – something that far too many seniors experience as their daily norm,” said Ellie Hollander, president and CEO of Meals on Wheels America. “More than ever, we must rally around our essential community-based programs that serve as lifelines to a growing number of people in need, to enable their own long-term vitality. Even when we make it through this unprecedented time in our nation’s history, there will still be millions of vulnerable older adults who will rely on that familiar knock on the door that provides peace of mind and hope beyond the meal itself. Please join us in celebrating the power and importance of Meals on Wheels this March and always.”

For more information on how to volunteer, contribute or speak out for the seniors in your community this March, visit ECKAAA at www.eckaaa.org to find local senior nutrition sites, or learn more about supporting the Meals on Wheels program through volunteering or monetary donations.

To see the local nutrition sites’ daily menu, click here: Osage County Nutrition Sites Daily Menu

Update: Boil water advisory rescinded for city of Overbrook

Update Feb. 23, 2021: OVERBROOK, Kan. – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment rescinded a boil water advisory for the city of Overbrook public water supply system this morning, Feb. 23, 2021. The advisory was issued Feb. 16 because of a waterline break resulting in a loss of pressure in the distribution system.

Laboratory testing samples collected from Overbrook indicate no evidence of bacteriological contamination and all other conditions that placed the system at risk of contamination are deemed by KDHE officials to be resolved.

For more information, contact Overbrook City Hall at 785-665-7328 or KDHE at 785-296-5514. For consumer information, see KDHE’s PWS Consumer Information at www.kdheks.gov/pws/emergencyresponse/water_disruption.htm.

Eat Well to Be Well: Help men show their hearts some love

Here’s a fact that should get the attention of men and those who love them: About one in every four male deaths is due to heart disease. To make matters worse, half of men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.

Men need help – specifically when it comes to their heart health. Being neglectful of heart health is not in a man’s best interest. This vital organ needs tender loving care throughout a man’s life. However, for the past 90 years, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in men (and women).

Fortunately, thanks to the American Heart Association getting the message out on heart health, fewer Americans are dying of heart disease than ever. But there is still a long ways to go and every little bit of information, awareness and encouragement makes a huge difference in reducing a man’s risk of this killer disease.

Here are some  steps that can boost a man’s heart health helping him live a longer, healthier life:

Encourage him to get an annual checkup

When is the last time a man you love in your life got an annual physical? The American Academy of Family Physicians survey found that more than half of all men don’t get regular checkups. If they are not going to the doctor annually, they will not know what their risk factors are.

Every man should know what his blood pressure number, his heart rate, total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride level. Men should know that once he hits the age of 45 (or younger age for black men), blood pressure begins to climb increasing his risk of a heart attack or stroke. An annual checkup gives a man the opportunity to talk with his doctor about any concerns he has such as erectile dysfunction that can actually be an indicator of heart disease.

UK COVID-19 variant identified in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. – A CDC emerging variant of COVID-19, which has been found in 33 U.S. states, was identified in Kansas Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. A Kansas resident in Ellis County was found to have the United Kingdom, or UK, variant known as B.1.1.7. A case investigation is being conducted to determine how the person became infected with this particular variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as if others may have been exposed. No further details are being released concerning the patient, including demographics.

The variant was determined through the whole genome sequencing (WGS) conducted through the laboratories at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).

“This finding does not change our public health recommendations,” said Dr. Norman, KDHE Secretary. “We continue to encourage people to take the appropriate precautions: follow isolation and quarantine recommendations, practice physical distancing, wearing masks, good hygiene, staying home if ill and getting the vaccine if you are able to, once the supply is sufficient.”

The variant was first reported in the U.S. at the end of December 2020. Evidence from the U.K. indicates this variant spreads much more quickly through the population and, given that fact, may rapidly increase the number of hospitalizations and deaths. More studies are needed to confirm this finding.

Eat Well to Be Well: Bite by bite, benefits of healthy eating add up over time

Make every bite count – towards your health.

I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve used this mantra in articles over the years. While very few (if any) of us have perfected this statement, the foods and beverages you consume profoundly impact your health over time. Science has proven this time and again that consistent dietary patterns and choices of healthy foods means a healthier you.

That’s why I was pleased that the recently released Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025, make a point of emphasizing this exact sentiment. Instead of focusing on individual nutrients, foods, or food groups, the spotlight is on your dietary pattern over time and how the foods you choose act synergistically to affect your health. In other words, what matters most is that your daily food decisions, from infancy to old age, ideally should lean towards choosing more health-promoting foods over not-so-healthy foods over the course of your lifetime.

What are the Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

In case you’re not familiar with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, every five years since 1980, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services jointly publish science-based advice on what to eat and drink with the aim of promoting health and to prevent chronic disease.

The 2020-2025 edition couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune time. The year 2020 is forever marked with the devastating toll of COVID-19. Early on it was noted individuals with obesity or chronic diseases were likely to suffer more severe illness and death. When about 74 percent of adults are overweight or obese in the U.S. and 60 percent of adults have one or more diet-related chronic disease (i.e., heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, cancer), it’s a stark wake-up call of the necessity for improving dietary habits. That’s where the Dietary Guidelines can help. Learning how to personalize food and beverage choices based on your food preferences, cultural traditions, and what fits your budget, is possible while still keeping your focus on achieving good health.

Unfortunately, as stated above, the coronavirus pandemic was a glaring reminder of how Americans are falling short in meeting the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines. Diet-related chronic disease and obesity continue to steadily rise as a ubiquitous major public health threat, especially when fighting a novel virus. That’s why this edition’s mantra of “Make every bite count with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” is more important than ever.

Eat Well to Be Well: Set goals to stay healthy during the holidays

Good health starts with good health habits

I think we can all agree on one thing – holidays can be stressful! There’s shopping, cooking, entertaining family, and now, the unusual event of a viral pandemic showing few signs of slowing down. Yes, this holiday season, stress overload is at an all time high.

Despite not being able to completely control our current pandemic situation, focus instead on having a well-thought out plan of successfully managing what we can be in charge of – our health! By having plan and setting in motion strategies supporting our health and well-being, we can flourish and thrive like never before while feeling our best, even during uncertain times.  Here’s how:

1. Keep moving: Fitting in time for fitness during holidays can be challenging. But with some creativity and determination, it can be done. Start by avoiding long stretches of sitting. Make a goal to be up and moving for even just five minutes every 30 to 60 minutes throughout the day. Walk 10 minutes or more after a meal, play catch or Frisbee with your kids (or adults too!), put on music and dance, rake leaves, pace around the house, perform simple squats or lunge exercises, or walk around while talking on your cell phone. Activity helps reduce lower blood glucose levels, improves heart health and increases energy by getting muscles activated.

Goal: Work toward 30-60 minutes of activity a day.

Commissioners exempt Osage County from governor’s statewide mask mandate

County health department reports 120 active cases

LYNDON, Kan. – In a social media post this afternoon, the Osage County Health Department announced that Osage County commissioners had exempted the county from Gov. Laura Kelly’s statewide emergency order issued last week requiring Kansans to wear face masks in most public situations. Kelly had issued the order due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases statewide, saying Kansas is facing a crisis with recent “worrying” spikes in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, and stretching the healthcare system’s ability to handle the influx of patients.

Kelly’s order noted that “wearing a face covering in public is the easiest and most effective way to protect each other, ease the burden on our overburdened healthcare system, and help keep our businesses open and our economy running …”

Kelly’s order gave county commissioners until this week to decide to comply with the order, adopt their own order, or exempt the county from the order.

In a resolution approved at today’s meeting of the Osage County Commission, and posted on Osage County’s website, county commissioners ordered Osage County exempt from the governor’s order, citing three reasons:

“Enforcement of the governor’s executive order mandating masks would be difficult, if not impossible and would be an unreasonable strain on county resources such as PPE and local law enforcement.

“Broad ranging recommendations on safety precautions to fight the potential spread of COVID-19 better serve the public’s overall interests than governmental mandates.

“Opting out of the governor’s statewide executive order gives Osage County flexibility going forward to make recommendations or mandates, if necessary, that best protect the health and safety of Osage County, Kansas.”

While opting out of the governor’s mask order, the commissioners adopted a mask protocol for the county, signed by Osage County Health Director Jackie Patterson, and Fred Diver, commissioner and county board of health chairman.

The county’s mask protocol does not mandate the use of masks, “but recognizes the significance of utilizing them in order to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 in the population. Therefore, masks are not mandated, but are strongly recommended in Osage County whenever in any public space indoors, or outside when at least six feet social distancing cannot be maintained.”

The Osage County Board of Health’s protocol also echoes the commissioners’ reluctance to enforce a mask mandate. “While we recognize the significance of face coverings in mitigating the transmission of COVID-19, we find a mandate inherently unenforceable at the county level,” the health board protocol says.

Eat Well to Be Well: The harmful health reality of excess belly fat

If zipping up your favorite jeans or buttoning a shirt over your belly has become problematic, it’s time to face reality – you’re likely carrying excess belly fat. Whether you’re a man or woman, carrying an excess band of fat around your abdominal or midsection is risky to your health.

Accumulating belly fat can sneak up on a person. Contributing factors leading to gaining belly fat include consuming too many calories and not enough exercise, lack of sleep, and getting older, as aging can cause loss of muscle mass and a decreased metabolism, and your genetics, which can determine where you tend to store body fat.

The dangers of deep belly fat

Unlike fat found on the hips and thighs, fat around the middle (belly fat) produces biologically active substances creating an environment conducive to serious health risks. Because of its proximity to the major organs in your midsection, think of belly fat sort of like an apron hanging from your large intestine surrounding your internal organs. When fat collects deep within the central abdominal area of the body known as visceral fat, it poses greater risks of major chronic diseases than excess fat lying just beneath the skin, subcutaneous fat, found on hips, thighs, and buttocks. One danger is that fat cells of visceral fat are its own endocrine organ, secreting hormones, proteins, and other molecules having far-reaching negative effects on other tissue and organs nearby.

For instance, visceral fat releases more fatty acids into the blood than other types of fat tissue, contributing to a blood lipid profile associated with metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of visceral fat, high blood glucose (insulin resistance), high blood pressure, and altered blood lipids greatly increasing risk of heart disease leading to a heart attack or stroke.

Visceral fat also makes proteins called cytokines, which can trigger low-level inflammation, another predictor of heart disease. This also acts as a precursor to angiotensin, a protein that causes blood vessels to constrict, increasing blood pressure.

In addition, these same visceral fat cells lead to a loss of sensitivity to insulin, a hormone crucial for burning energy and keeping blood sugar in control. As a result, extra belly fat increases the risk of insulin resistance, bringing its own potential complications. Insulin resistance often leads to type 2 diabetes, which affects more than 34 million Americans and is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.

Safe housing options available for those impacted by COVID-19

To help Kansans protect their families and household members, the state is working to provide safe housing options for those affected by COVID-19. Non-congregate sheltering is an option for individuals in multiple communities in the state. Sheltering is available for those who cannot safely isolate or quarantine in their homes and have tested positive for COVID-19, those who have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, and those living and working in at-risk or congregate settings.

“The most effective way to slow the spread of the virus is to isolate or quarantine yourself away from others in your household,” said Devan Tucking, human services branch director, Kansas Division of Emergency Management. “These non-congregate shelter options are being provided because we know it is not always possible to isolate or quarantine someone in a single-family residence where people must share a kitchen, a bathroom, laundry room and other spaces.”

Non-congregate shelters are provided in coordination with the Kansas Department of Children and Families, Kansas Division of Emergency Management and local emergency management and public health departments.

At this time shelters are located in the following locations:

  • Ford County, Dodge City
  • Johnson County, Gardner
  • Leavenworth County, Lansing
  • Lyon County, Emporia
  • Saline County, Saline
  • Seward County, Liberal
  • Wyandotte County, Kansas City

The shelter provides free housing, three meals a day and snacks, laundry service, and a cleaning service to provide a safe shelter to avoid exposing households to the COVID-19 virus and help stop the spread of the virus.

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