Category Archives: Food & Health

Stop Diabetes Now – Know Your Risk

Being proactive with your health is easier than ever and starts with knowing your health risks. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that 84 million American adults (1 in 3 adults) have prediabetes, but that 90 percent of them don’t know that they have it.

Prediabetes is a condition in which a person’s blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be classified as type 2 diabetes. It is an important sign that a person is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, and is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. The good news is that there are easy screening tests to tell if you have prediabetes, and the condition can often be reversed through simple changes in lifestyle.

Who is at risk for prediabetes? In general, people who are overweight or obese (check out your weight status on the chart below) and aren’t regularly physically active. People who have a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes are also at higher risk, as are men and people over 40 years old. In addition, women with a history of gestational diabetes are at greater risk for having prediabetes.

chart-prediabetes

You can find out if you are at risk for prediabetes by taking a simple online risk test at DoIHavePrediabetes.org. If after taking the test, you find that you are at increased risk, make an appointment to see your doctor, who will do a blood test to check your blood sugar. Diagnosis is the key. Once you know where you stand, you can take steps to reduce your risk.

The sooner people with prediabetes make healthy changes, the better their chance of reversing prediabetes. Now there is a proven program to help people do just that.

The National Diabetes Prevention Program helps people with prediabetes prevent or delay developing type 2 diabetes. A lifestyle coach works with participants over an extended period and uses tested methods to help them learn to manage their weight, establish a regular routine of physical activity, and develop a healthy eating pattern. A program will be offered on the Virginia Tech campus in spring 2018.

If you think you are at risk, take the following steps:

  1. Take the online screening test;
  2. If at risk, make an appointment with your doctor; and
  3. Inquire about the National Diabetes Prevention Program being offered in the spring.

Contact

Lynn Margheim
lynn85@vt.edu

Carlin Rafie
crafie@vt.edu

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Sign the Healthy Meetings Pledge

Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) is on the front lines of helping our communities be the healthiest they can be. Having a healthy eating pattern and being active is key to good mental and physical health and quality of life. Protecting the skin from sun damage when working and playing outdoors at all ages significantly reduces the risk of skin cancer.

As community health educators and representatives of VCE, we have the opportunity to set the example and to model a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. The Healthy Meetings Initiative invites you to join your colleagues in developing a culture of health within VCE and among the clients that we serve.

By signing the Healthy Meetings Pledge, you are agreeing to:

  1. Make your programs and meetings an example of healthy living;
  2. Document your healthy meetings on the Healthy Meetings Checklist (see VCE Publications);
  3. Share your successes with pictures on the VCE Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages, when possible;
  4. Use hashtage #VCEHealthyMeeting to spread the word;
  5. Let us know what you did by answering the end-of-the-year survey that will be distributed to all individuals and units that sign the pledge during the year.

Sign the pledge here, and join your VCE colleagues in creating communities of health!

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Virginia Cooperative Extension employees increase colorectal cancer screening rates by 20 percent

Colorectal cancer is the third-most commonly diagnosed and third-most fatal cancer in men and in women in the United States and Virginia. New screening methods have allowed for both the early detection of colorectal cancer and its prevention through the removal of intestinal polyps before they become cancerous. Early detection of colorectal cancer is crucial to successful treatment and increases survival rates from 13.1 percent, when discovered at an advanced stage, to 90 percent, if detected at an early, localized stage. In addition to screenings, a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a healthy eating pattern, and appropriate weight maintenance is pivotal to decreasing risk of colorectal cancer.

Eighty by 2018 emblem

In February 2016, Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) joined the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable’s “80% by 2018 Initiative” to eliminate colorectal cancer as a public health issue. Conducted for VCE employees, a colorectal cancer awareness campaign urged eligible members to get screened for colorectal cancer and encouraged everyone to adopt healthy lifestyle practices that reduce colorectal cancer risk. The campaign’s key message is that “colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable, and beatable.”

The campaign resulted in healthful changes in diet, exercise, and screening. VCE staff reported increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat every day and substituting white meats for red and processed meats. Half of those asked said they had started exercising, and many increased the time or intensity of their exercise. Most importantly, the actual colorectal cancer screening rate among all VCE employees increased from 52.7 percent in fiscal year 2016 to 73.3% in fiscal year 2017 — a 20.6 percent increase in screening.

The goal within VCE is to reach a colorectal cancer screening rate of 80 percent by 2018, but we are going beyond just educating ourselves. Extension agents are introducing the initiative to the communities they serve. Agents will work with employers in their counties to conduct the “Colon Cancer Free Zone” worksite campaign, which increases employee awareness of colorectal cancer as a preventable disease and helps move them to action. If we work together, we can reach the goal of 80 percent colorectal cancer screening of all eligible Virginians by 2018.

If interested in conducting the “Colon Cancer Free Zone” campaign at your worksite, please contact Carlin Rafie at crafie@vt.edu or 540-231-3162.

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Exploring genetics to combat malaria and Zika

The Zika virus has quickly become a major health threat, and researchers at Virginia Tech are looking for ways to curtail its spread.

Fralin Life Science Institute’s Vector-Borne Disease Research Group team members, from left: Zhijian “Jake” Tu, professor of biochemistry; Brantley Hall, biochemistry graduate student; Atashi Sharma, entomology graduate student; and Igor Sharakhov, associate professor of entomology

Fralin Life Science Institute’s Vector-Borne Disease Research Group team members, from left: Zhijian “Jake” Tu, professor of biochemistry; Brantley Hall, biochemistry graduate student; Atashi Sharma, entomology graduate student; and Igor Sharakhov, associate professor of entomology

The virus, which is primarily spread to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito, has been passed on to a growing number of Americans since early 2016, and the World Health Organization has declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Biochemist Zhijian “Jake”  Tu is one of several Virginia Tech researchers zeroing in on the Zika virus. Tu is studying genes that turn biting female mosquitoes into males, and he is exploring genetic strategies to stop the transmission of the Zika virus by reducing the number of female mosquitoes. Male mosquitoes do not bite and are harmless to humans, while female mosquitoes bite humans to get the blood they need for egg production.

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Extension is ahead of the curve on new food safety rules

Adrianna Vargo, director of grower services at Charlottesville’s Local Food Hub, has collaborated with Virginia Cooperative Extension to get critical information to growers regarding the Food and Drug Administration’s new Food Safety Modernization Act. Its aim is to make the food supply safer by shifting the focus from responding to food contamination problems to preventing them from occurring. The policy is the most sweeping reform of U.S. food safety laws for both human and animal foods in 70 years.

As part of its grower services program, the Local Food Hub’s Adrianna Vargo conducts a mock audit of Singing Earth Farm in Augusta County.

As part of its grower services program, the Local Food Hub’s Adrianna Vargo conducts a mock audit of Singing Earth Farm in Augusta County.

Vargo and Extension have acted as boots-on-the-ground liaisons for more than 60 growers throughout Virginia and in North Carolina by providing critical workshops to ensure producers will be able to comply with FSMA legislation.

“One of the aspects of this legislation that has been a huge concern for growers is water testing. FSMA requires so many more water tests throughout the growing season,” Vargo said. “Extension has been an invaluable resource for training. They have been very inclusive and responsive to growers’ needs.”

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