Boost Your Healthy Eating Habits This National Nutrition Month

By Adrianna Bradley

March is National Nutrition Month and DHEC has tips to help you make healthy food choices today.

“If you want to make the move toward eating healthier, choose one or two things to change,” said Phyllis Allen, MS, RD, state director of Public Health Nutrition. “Don’t instantly try to change everything you eat. When you make too many changes it will make it harder to stick with new habits.”

With this year’s theme, “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” DHEC is continuing its efforts in our communities teaching various age groups the importance of eating a well-balanced meal and living a more active lifestyle.

Healthy eating can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, and reduce the risk for a number of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. DHEC is actively working to decrease the number of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease with programs like Cooking Matters. The program teaches adults how to prepare and shop for healthy meals on a limited budget.  Currently, the economic cost of obesity in South Carolina is an estimated $8.5 billion per year and growing.

“Parents are important role models for their children,” Allen said. “Set a good example by eating healthy and your children will eat healthy too.”

Tips to help develop better habits

Here are some tips to help you develop sound eating and physical activity habits. Remember, making small changes in your food choices can lead to better health.

  1. Eat breakfast: Start your morning with a healthy breakfast that includes lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.12003
  2. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables: Fruits and veggies add color, flavor, and texture plus vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your plate. Make 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables your daily goal. Experiment with different types, including fresh, frozen and canned.
  3. Watch portion sizes: Get out the measuring cups and see how close your portions are to the recommended serving size.
  4. Be active: Start by doing what exercise you can for at least 10 minutes at a time. Children and teens should get 60 or more minutes of physical activity per day, and adults should get two hours and 30 minutes per week.
  5. Fix healthy snacks: Healthy snacks can sustain your energy levels between meals, especially when they include a combination of foods.
  6. Get to know food labels: Reading the Nutrition Facts panel can help you eat or drink smarter.
  7. Get cooking: Preparing foods at home can be healthy, rewarding and cost-effective. Resolve to learn some cooking and kitchen basics.
  8. Dine out without ditching your goals: Plan ahead, ask questions and choose foods carefully. Compare nutrition information, if available, and look for healthier options that are grilled, baked, broiled or steamed.
  9. Drink more water: Quench your thirst by drinking water instead of sugary drinks.
  10. Cut back on added sugars: Foods and drinks with added sugars equal empty calories and little or no nutrition. Reviewing ingredients on the food label helps identify sources of added sugar.

National Kidney Month

It’s National Kidney Month. So, be kind to your kidneys.

The kidneys are hard-working organs that are vital to our health. While each is only about the size of a computer mouse, the kidneys filter all the blood in your body every 30 minutes in order to remove waste, toxins and excess fluids. They also help control blood pressure, stimulate production of red blood cells and keep your bones healthy.

You can protect your kidneys by controlling your blood pressure, staying physically active and losing weight, among other things. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more kidney-friendly tips and related information.

Those most at risk should get tested

It’s particularly important for those who have risk factors for kidney disease to ask their doctor about testing them to learn their kidney health. Each kidney is made up of millions of tiny filters that can become damaged over time by diabetes, high blood pressure or other causes, and stop working, a condition called chronic kidney disease.

The CDC notes that approximately 15 percent of US adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease, which, in its early stages, has no signs or symptoms. The CDC recommends getting tested if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or high cholesterol, or are age 50 or older. You also should get tested if you are from a family with a history of chronic kidney disease.

Early detection and treatment for kidney disease can help prevent additional health problems.

DHEC encourages South Carolinians to take precautions against Zika at home and abroad

As springtime approaches, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is urging residents to take precautions now at home or while traveling to prevent mosquito-borne illnesses like Zika.

Many South Carolinians are preparing for trips abroad, whether it be for spring break, mission trips or just vacations. Many of those destinations are warmer locations where mosquito populations are known to transmit Zika and other diseases. DHEC encourages all those travelers to do their part to prevent mosquito bites.

Take care when traveling to an area with active transmission

“When traveling to any country with active Zika transmission, travelers should proactively take steps to prevent mosquito bites, such as using insect repellent, wearing long sleeves and pants, and staying in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens,” said Linda Bell, M.D. and state epidemiologist. “Zika is actively spreading in several areas of the world, including countries and territories in the Caribbean, Central America, South America, the Pacific Islands and Cape Verde.”

Individuals planning to travel should consult a travel clinic or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website to see if they are traveling to an area with active Zika transmission. A complete list of countries and locations with active transmission can be found here: cdc.gov/zika/geo/index.html.

There have been 61 travel-related cases of Zika virus reported in South Carolina since April 2016. However, there have been no cases caused by mosquitoes in the state. “To help ensure this remains the case, it is very important for travelers to take these necessary precautions,” continued Dr. Bell.

Take precautions on the home front too

With temperatures rising in South Carolina, action on the home front is also needed to help fight mosquitoes. Eliminating breeding grounds is the No. 1 way to reduce mosquito populations, and all individuals can do their part by simply tipping and tossing any container with standing water.

“Mosquitoes have the ability to spread illnesses other than Zika, such as West Nile virus, chikungunya, dengue and eastern equine encephalitis,” said Dr. Bell.

Most people infected with the Zika virus do not have any symptoms. When symptoms are present, the most common are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). Oftentimes, symptoms of Zika infection can be mild, yet last as long as one week. Zika virus can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus, and infection during pregnancy can cause serious birth defect of the brain called microcephaly and other severe birth defects. The virus can also be passed through sex. The CDC recommends that all women who are pregnant should not travel to areas abroad where Zika virus transmission is ongoing.

Learn more about prevention

For more information on steps that individuals can take to prevent mosquito bites and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds around their homes, visit www.scdhec.gov/mosquitoes. For more information on the Zika virus, visit www.scdhec.gov/zika.

Let’s commit to improving South Carolinians’ heart health

By Lilian Peake, MD
Director, Health Services

Cardiovascular disease is a leading killer of South Carolinians and many of these deaths are avoidable. Communities, employers, health professionals and families can all play a role in preventing this disease.

This is particularly important in South Carolina: In 2015, there were more than 50,000 hospitalizations for heart disease, at a cost of more than $3.2 billion.

South Carolina’s heart disease death rate is above the national average and higher than our neighbors, North Carolina and Georgia. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s State Health Facts, in 2014 the heart disease death rate in the United States was 167 per 100,000 people. In South Carolina the death rate is 8 percent higher than the US rate and 14 percent higher than in North Carolina (181.1, compared to 158.7).

dr-lilian-peake-dhec

Dr. Lilian Peake

There are also disparities among groups affected. For example, the rate among African-Americans outpaces all others. The Palmetto State also has high rates of the conditions that lead to this disease, such as obesity and diabetes.

Much work has been done in an effort to turn the tide. We at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) consider our role key to helping achieve the level of improvement needed. Our vision is “Healthy people living in healthy communities.”

DHEC works with numerous community partners to improve cardiovascular health for all.

We assist in implementing CDC-recognized diabetes prevention programs and train lifestyle coaches.

DHEC also offers a heart disease and stroke prevention program called WISEWOMAN. This is offered at no cost to eligible women ages 40 to 64. Women are screened for high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity; they obtain medical follow-up and referrals for abnormal screening results as well as referrals to free or low-cost community programs, such as workout classes, diabetes education, and free sessions with a personal health coach.

DHEC partners with the SC Institute of Medicine and Public Health to facilitate the implementation of the state’s Obesity Action Plan through the SCaledown initiative.

We work with communities to encourage policies, systems and environmental changes that lead to improved access to healthy foods and active lifestyles. One example is the Farm to Institution program where we partner with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education. We educate the public, partner with health systems, and design wellness programs statewide.

DHEC also funds the Quitline to help South Carolinians quit smoking.

Other organizations, including the South Carolina Hospital Association, the South Carolina Chapter of the American Heart Association, A Million Hearts, the South Carolina Medical Association, the Heart2Heart Foundation and more are also doing admirable work in an effort to address this important health issue.

But there is much more work to do. We need your help. You too play an important role in improving heart health in South Carolina. And what better time to get started than this month — American Heart Month?

So what are some things you can do?

  • Commit to a healthy lifestyle — exercise daily, eat healthier and take medication as prescribed.
  • Stop Call 800-Quit-NOW for free nicotine patches, gum or lozenges to eligible South Carolinians.
  • Become a WISEWOMAN participant if eligible; call 800-227-2345 to see if you qualify.
  • Have your blood pressure checked.
  • Create physical activities such as walking or group exercise at work.

Obviously, there are many more actions we can take as employers, health care providers or families. With the right level of commitment, we can improve heart health in South Carolina. Will you help?

DHEC’s Billy Wiggins Chosen for National Nursing Program

Billy Wiggins of the DHEC Client Services team will soon embark on a journey to grow as a nurse and leader.

Billy, who is a Registered Nurse, is one of 20 people chosen for the prestigious the Amy V. Cockcroft Nursing Leadership Development Program from across the nation.

“It’s a very exciting time here at DHEC to have someone as ambitious as Billy participating in a nationally-recognized nursing leadership program,” said Nick Davidson, director of Client Services. “Billy’s role in working with the regions and programs to evaluate and improve internal systems issues uniquely positions him to benefit greatly from this program.”

The program provides nursing leaders with the skills needed to actively shape health care and the profession of nursing.

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity and am certain I will acquire skills and knowledge I’ll use throughout the rest of my career,” Billy said.

This progressive leadership program will advance Billy’s ability to lead and navigate while also educating him on how to work effectively with interdisciplinary teams.

“I’m looking forward to learning skills to help guide my decision making processes and enhancing my communication and leadership skills to serve both myself and DHEC.”

It’s no easy task to complete the program. The year-long program includes five intensive, three-day sessions spread out throughout the year. Each participant must also plan and complete an interdisciplinary project.

“The skills that I attain from the program will become a part of my everyday functionality,” Billy added. “I want us in public health to have an opportunity to challenge ourselves and see what we can do to continue to improve our customer service, externally and internally.”

The program will begin in March. Good luck to Billy, and many thanks to him for continuing to uphold DHEC’s core value of pursuing excellence.