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5 Ways to Make Heart Healthy Choices at the Grocery Store

As we get older, the decisions we make at the grocery store can have a significant impact on our health. It’s important to buy food that is good for your heart. Eating a diet that is rich in vegetables, fruits, lean protein and fiber can reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Below are 5 tips on how to make heart healthy choices at the grocery store.

  1. Buy Several Fruits and Vegetables. Adults should eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals.
  2. Avoid Buying Butter. Avoiding butter can help lower cholesterol. It is recommended to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day.
  3. Buy High Fiber Foods and Nuts. Fiber is great because it keeps you full and helps lower your cholesterol. Fiber is found in beans, whole-grain cereals and nuts. Walnuts and almonds specifically have shown a positive impact on heart health.
  4. Don’t Buy High Fat Dairy and Meat. Look for yogurt, milk and cheese that have less than 2% fat. When it comes to meat, you want to buy cuts that end in “loin” like tenderloin and sirloin. These cuts generally have less fat.
  5. Buy Frozen or Canned Fruits and Vegetables. Canned fruits and vegetables have similar benefits and contain the same vitamins and minerals. It is important to choose unsalted and unsweetened options.

To learn more about how to avoid strokes and heart attacks, register for our free heart health classes. You do not have to be a patient or resident to attend.

How to Prevent Diabetes

Being overweight or obese are very prevalent risk factors for diabetes. How do you know if you’re overweight or obese? These terms are determined by your body mass index (BMI), which is a calculated number based on your height and weight. A BMI of 25-29.9 (kg/m2) is considered “overweight.” A BMI of 30 or greater is known as “obese.” These are both considered risk factors for diabetes. See the BMI chart below to determine if your weight puts you at increased risk for diabetes. Other risk factors include: being over the age of 45, having a family history of diabetes, lack of physical activity, high blood pressure and having an abnormal lipid panel. Thankfully, most of these risk factors are modifiable!

The recommendations for physical activity are 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week, plus 2 days of resistance or strength training. Moderate-intensity activity means getting your heart rate up. You’re getting moderate activity if you can talk but can’t sing while doing an activity. Increasing your muscle mass can also help moderate your blood sugar.

The general recommendation for sodium intake is no more than 2,400 mg of sodium daily. This recommendation is even lower if you already have high blood pressure. On average, Americans eat 3,600 mg of sodium per day, so we have quite a bit of room for improvement! Sodium is listed on the nutrition facts label of our foods, so next time you are shopping, compare the sodium content of foods.

Having an abnormal lipid panel also puts you at risk of developing diabetes. This panel is typically tested by blood work from your doctor. Your lipid panel includes serum triglycerides, LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”), HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) and total cholesterol.

If you are currently overweight or obese, there are many potential approaches to weight loss. There is no one diet that is optimal for all individuals. Diets should be individualized to specific food preferences and preferred approaches. Limiting calorie-dense foods, reducing overall portion sizes, or following a structured meal plan are just a few examples of how to lose excess weight.

Have you been diagnosed with diabetes already? The Villages Health has the only American Diabetes Association accredited program in the region, and provides quality support, management, training and education for individuals with diabetes. The program is provided in 10 hours over the first year of education, including an individual needs assessment followed by 4 two-hour group classes. An additional 3 hours of one-on-one medical nutrition therapy is provided within the initial year, followed by 2 hours every year thereafter. Our team of Certified Diabetes Educators and Registered Licensed Dietitians are eager to be a part of your quality health care team, helping you stay well and appropriately manage your diabetes. 

We are also proud to offer the Diabetes Prevention Program for individuals at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The Villages Health is one of only four organizations in Florida to have received full recognition status by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention for this program. This year-long series is provided at all of The Villages Health primary care centers in a group setting and has proven efficacy to support and sustain weight loss, while reducing the risk for the development of type 2 diabetes. 

If you are interested in participating in any of our programs, please call 352-674-1770.

Body Mass Index table

The Power of Pumpkin

Many of us will have fun with pumpkins in some way this season. We can paint or carve them, use them for decorations, or find unique ways to eat them. There are many powerful health benefits of pumpkins. They’re rich in fiber, which aids in digestion and improves feelings of fullness. Rich in antioxidants, pumpkins can help keep your skin and eyes healthy. In fact, one cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Both their flesh and seeds are edible and can be used in a variety of ways, in sweet or savory dishes. Below is a recipe for healthy pumpkin muffins, which make for a great on the go breakfast or a quick satisfying snack. Happy Fall!


  • ⅓ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil*
  • ½ cup maple syrup or honey
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup pumpkin purée
  • ¼ cup milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin spice blend (or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, and ¼ teaspoon ground allspice or cloves)
  • 1 ¾ cups  whole wheat flour
  • ⅓ cup old-fashioned oats, plus more for sprinkling on top


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line or grease muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the oil and maple syrup or honey together with a whisk. Add the eggs, and beat well. Mix in the pumpkin purée and milk, followed by the baking soda, vanilla extract, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.
  3. Add the flour and oats to the bowl and mix with a large spoon, just until combined.
  4. Divide the batter evenly between the muffin cups.Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a small amount of oats, followed by a sprinkle of cinnamon.
  5. Bake muffins for 22 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

Source: Cookie and Kate

Is it a Cold or is it the Flu?

Based on the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, there are over 500 million colds in the United States. It is the main reason for missed work and school. Each flu season (November through March), there are between 15 million and 64 million flu cases each year.

These illnesses are more likely to occur during the fall and winter months because they are more stable at colder temperatures. The flu virus, in particular, doesn’t spread at higher temperatures. The dry, cold conditions pull moisture out of droplets released by coughs and sneezes, allowing the virus to linger in the air. Sometimes it is hard to know if you have a common cold, or if you have something more severe like the flu. We want to make this easy for you to decipher.

Below you will see the differences between a cold and the flu.


To learn more about the differences between the cold and flu, register for our free “Cold and Flu” class. You do not have to be a patient or resident of The Villages to attend.

5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Falling

Many people who fall, even if they are not injured, develop a fear of falling. This fear may cause them to limit their activities, which leads to reduced mobility and loss of physical fitness, and in turn increases their actual risk of falling. We don’t want you to be scared of falling, so we will share five tips on how you can reduce your risk of falling.

1. Be Physically Active: Regular physical activity is a first line of defense against falls and fractures. Physical activity strengthens muscles and increases flexibility and endurance. Your balance and the way you walk may improve with exercise, decreasing the chances of a fall.
2. Review Medications with Your Doctor: All drugs carry side effects and can interact with other medications. For many medications, one or more side effects affect balance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common problems include vision changes, dizziness or lightheadedness, drowsiness, and impaired alertness or judgment. Some medications may damage the inner ear, spurring temporary or permanent balance disorders.
3. Check Your Vision, Hearing and Blood Pressure: You should have your vision tested regularly or if you think it has changed. Even small changes in sight can make you less stable. Not being able to hear well can impact your balance by causing you to have to react at the last minute. Some older people have normal or increased blood pressure while seated, but their blood pressure drops too much while standing. There is no way to know unless you check. Tell your doctor if you feel faint or unsteady when you get up from sitting or lying down.
4. Choose Safe Footwear: Our feet have nerves that help us judge the position of our bodies. To work correctly, our feet need to be in touch with the ground and our shoes need to stay securely with the foot as we take each step. Otherwise, falls may occur. It’s important to select your footwear carefully to help prevent falls. Wear sensible, low-heeled shoes that fit well and support your feet. There should be no marks on your feet when you take off your shoes and socks.
5. Make Your Home Safe: Remove or avoid safety hazards. Improve the lighting throughout your home. Have handrails installed on both sides of stairs and walkways. If you must carry something while walking up or down stairs, hold the item in one hand and use the handrail with the other. When you’re carrying something, be sure you can see where your feet are stepping. Properly place grab bars in your tub and shower, and next to the toilet, to help you avoid falls. Also, move items to make them easier to reach.

To learn more about reducing your risk of falls, register for our free “Fall Prevention” class. You do not have to be a patient or resident of The Villages to attend.

7 Blessings of Aging

You may not consider growing old to be a blessing. After all, there are many things changing for you such as your senses, appearance, endurance, reflexes and health. You might also experience the loss of your youth, hearing, sight, family, friends and pets. Although aging comes with losses, there are many blessings that you gain.

  1. New Interests: As you age, you are able to find time to try new hobbies and activities that you couldn’t explore before. The Villages® community has thousands of activities to choose from, ranging from sports and health to music and theatre. There is something for everyone!
  2. Creativity: As you explore new things and expand your mind, you may also become more creative. Art has many positive effects on the aging mind. Some of them include reducing stress, providing an increased sense of control, reducing anxiety and depression, reducing boredom and increasing self-esteem. Let out your inner Picasso!
  3. Perception: Your perception of age and time changes as you age. You have a lot of experience, so you are now able to more accurately estimate and appreciate the value of time.
  4. Spiritual Intensity: Your spiritual side may develop more and more as you age. It is important to believe in a greater purpose and have an appreciation for life. Having a strong sense of purpose can have a powerful positive effect. When you have a sense of purpose, you never get up in the morning wondering what you’re going to do with yourself. When you’re working towards your purpose – life becomes easier, less complicated and stressful.
  5. Inner Strength: With age comes inner strength. Inner strength develops by putting yourself first, training your mental and emotional body, and embracing what scares you. By now, you’ve gone through a lot of different life experiences that have increased your inner strength.
  6. Deepening of Personal Relationships: The more time you spend with people, the closer and deeper your relationship is with them. Maybe you’ve been with your spouse for over 40 years and you have a deep and intimate relationship. That is a blessing! You may also grow deep personal relationships with friends. These connections are particularly good for the aging brain.
  7. Acceptance of Who We Are: As you age, you learn who you are. You go through difficult situations in life that cause you to learn more about yourself. You have most likely embraced and accepted who you are and that is a beautiful thing!

To learn more about aging, register for a free learning center class. All of our courses are free to the entire community. You do not have to be a patient or a resident of The Villages to attend, so please remember to bring a friend.

How to Eat Healthy During a Hurricane

Sara Murray, RD, LDN, one of our Registered Dietitians, has prepared a grocery shopping list, several recipes and a meal plan for you and your family in case of an emergency. The shopping list includes food for 3-days for a family of 4. Below you will also find an example of a 3-day meal plan incorporating these recipes. We hope you find these resources helpful!

Hurricane Grocery List


Now that you have all of your groceries, it’s time to make healthy recipes out of those ingredients. You can download the recipes by pressing the button below.

Meal Plan

Below you can find an example of a 3-day meal plan incorporating the recipes above.

Eliminate Emotional Eating

“I had a bad day. I deserve this cookie.” “I am bored. What can I eat?” “I am really anxious about my health. I need to crunch on some chips.”

How many of us have said these statements to ourselves? Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is a response to emotions.

Why do we eat when we are upset? It may be that we feel that we have no choice but to eat. Perhaps we don’t know what else to do. We also may feel entitled to eat for getting through a difficult situation. Food can be an effective distractor….temporarily. How do we usually feel several minutes after we have eaten a food that we did not plan to eat? Most people say that they end up feeling discouraged because they did not follow their food plan. Instead of solving the first problem (e.g., stress, boredom, anxiety), additional problems were added (i.e., emotional eating and weight gain).

Researchers found that emotional eaters were less likely to lose weight and more likely to regain weight lost compared to people who did not engage in unplanned eating when upset. Individuals who do not have a weight problem as well as those who have successfully maintained a weight loss do not eat to comfort themselves. If they do, they notice what they are doing and immediately get back on track.

Emotional eating is a learned behavior that you can change! The more times that you can manage emotions without eating, the more able you will be able to refrain from overeating in the future. The key is learning to break the automatic connection between food and your mood. It involves finding ways to deal with emotions that don’t involve food.

The Villages Health is excited to introduce a weight management group specifically targeting emotional eating, ACT on Healthy Living. This group treatment is facilitated by Lucy Rathier, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist. Dr. Rathier has extensive experience and expertise in the behavioral treatment of obesity and emotional eating.

Many people struggling with their weight know what to do—eat smaller portions and exercise more. However, knowing what to do and getting yourself to do it are entirely separate skills. When it comes to changing long-term, habitual patterns, getting yourself to do something different is really dependent on keeping in mind your values or how you want to be in your life (e.g., to be healthy and active as I age, to be around to see special events in the lives of my family members, etc.). Thus, the main purpose of this group is to help you lead a life that is vital, full, and connected which includes healthy behaviors as a choice.

This approach is experiential. It includes mindfulness, learning how to distance yourself from unhelpful thoughts that cause you to struggle, and strategies which allow you to experience emotions without being overcome by them. These all lead to the ability to engage in behaviors consistent with living a fulfilling life despite uncomfortable feelings and thoughts. For example, “I feel stressed and desire a comfort food nevertheless I will stick to my healthy eating plan and take a walk.” For it truly to work, participants commit to practicing strategies in their daily lives.

Participation in this group treatment requires established care with a Primary Care Provider in The Villages Health and an initial screening evaluation with Dr. Rathier. For an appointment with Dr. Rathier, please call the Santa Barbara Care Center at 352-674-1740.

Diving Deeper into the Four Types of Exercise

Exercise and physical activity fall into four basic categories. The categories include: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. Each type of exercise is different and they all have different benefits. Mixing up your routine helps to reduce boredom and risk of injury. Learn more about the four types of exercise below.

      1. Endurance – These are aerobic activities that increase your breathing and heart rate. They keep your heart, lungs and circulatory system healthy. Participating in endurance activities can delay or prevent health conditions like diabetes, breast and colon cancer and heart disease. Types of endurance activities include: brisk walking or jogging, yard work (mowing, raking, digging), swimming, dancing, biking, playing tennis and playing basketball. You should build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity endurance activities on most, if not all, days of the week. If you’re not exercising now, start with a ten minute session and work your way up to 30+ minutes.
      2. Strength – These exercises make your muscles stronger. Small increases in strength can make a big difference in your ability to stay independent. It will make climbing stairs and carrying groceries a lot easier. Strength exercises increase your balance and help tone your muscle. You will also gain muscle mass, which burns calories faster than fat mass. Build up to at least 30 minutes of strength training on all of your muscle groups two or more days per week. Try to avoid exercising the same muscle group back to back.
      3. Balance – Each year, more than 1.6 million older Americans go to the emergency room because of fall-related injuries. Balance exercises can help prevent falls and avoid the disability that may result from falling. Balance exercises can be done anywhere, anytime and as often as you’d like. For safety, use a chair or wall for support.
      4. Flexibility – Flexibility, or stretching exercises, give you more freedom of movement for your physical activities. Stretching increases the range of motion of your muscles. This makes everyday activities easier, such as getting dressed and reaching objects on a shelf. Stretching exercises can improve your flexibility, but they will not improve your strength or endurance. Do each stretching exercise 3 to 5 times at each session. Slowly and smoothly stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, breathe, then repeat, trying to stretch farther.

To learn more about exercise and physical activity, register for a free learning center class. All of our courses are free to the entire community. You do not have to be a patient or a resident of The Villages to attend, so please remember to bring a friend.

Boost Your Brain Health

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with a neurological disorder? Are you simply looking to gather more information? Memory loss is a realistic fear and a top concern for many of us as we get older. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or any other neurological disorder affecting your mental ability, we recommend these tips for improving your brain health.

5 Natural Ways to Improve Your Brain

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight: Several studies have established obesity and/or diabetes as a risk factor for cognitive disease because obesity increases the risk of insulin resistance. Insulin, along with other functions in the body, modulates learning and memory.
  2. Drink less Alcohol: Alcohol and binge drinking can exhibit neurotoxic effects on the brain causing damage to the hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a vital role in memory. While having a drink or two now and again is perfectly healthy, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption is a smart way to protect your memory.
  3. Break a Sweat: Engage in exercise that raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain.
  4. Get a Good Night’s Sleep: Not getting enough sleep may result in a problem with thinking and memory.
  5. Keep Learning: Education in any stage of life will help reduce cognitive decline. Take a class at a local community center or online. Reading also will help your brain function.


Our team at The Villages Health is dedicated and committed to educating you and your loved ones on your condition. Our board-certified neurologists offer care to all members of the community. You’re also welcome to participate in a free community memory screening through our Wellness and Education unit. You do not need to be a patient to have a memory screening. To schedule a screening, please call: 352-674-1779.

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I think the thing that was the biggest selling point for me was just the whole idea of everything being under one healthcare facility.

Diane Kupchak, Patient at Creekside Care Center & Specialty Care Center