Friday, April 15, 2011


Another sure sign of spring is the startup of the WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening project. It is still too early to plant a garden in northern Michigan, but it is never too early to plan! Within the next couple of weeks, many of the gardeners will come together in their counties to receive their first nutrition lesson and start planning their gardens.

We at WISEWOMAN are very excited about the project this year. Of course, we are excited about it every year, but this year, Helen DeFlorio from MSU Extension will be playing an even bigger role in the WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening Project. Helen led the pilot project in Ogemaw County in 2008 and 2009. Last year, she helped us expand the program into 6 counties by sharing her knowledge, skills, and lessons learned from her experience with the pilot.

This year, Helen will be working as the WISEWOMAN Gardening Coordinator. She will visit each of the participating counties to purchase the supplies the WISEWOMAN gardeners need to get started with their gardens. Helen will coordinate the Nutritionists and Master Gardeners in each county as well as provide support to the participants. It will be great to have someone in the field making sure the women get all of the training and supplies they need to be successful.

Helen has her work cut out for her this year. It looks like we will be adding at least three more counties and we may have as many as 75 WISEWOMAN Gardeners this year! That is a preliminary estimate. I will let you know when we get a final tally.

Another exciting addition for this year is our new WISEWOMAN Gardening Facebook page. I will be providing updates about the project throughout the summer here on the blog, but if you want to get more information between updates, go to Facebook and “like” WISEWOMAN Gardening. While you are on Facebook, be sure to “like” Michigan WISEWOMAN Program if you have not already.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Many people in Michigan enjoy getting outside in the winter to go snowshoeing or cross country skiing. While those activities are great fun, most of us tend to stay inside more in the cold weather. Well, the snow in Lansing is gone, except for the big piles, and it is beginning to look like spring might be more than just a faded memory.

When I look out the window, I see more and more people out and about. Here in downtown Lansing, the sidewalks are getting more crowded as people make their way outside after overwintering in their cubicles. Outside my windows at home, I see people walking their dogs, or just walking themselves as they take in the spring air and sunshine.

Yesterday, my daughter and I pulled out our bicycles and went riding for about an hour and a half. The temperature was still a little cool. It was in the low 50’s, but we had mostly sunny skies for our ride. After about half an hour, we had to take off our jackets! It felt great to be outside moving and breathing in the fresh air.

As the days get longer, the ground is getting warmer. Crocuses and daffodils are beginning to make their presence known. (Can tulips be far behind?) The garlic I planted last fall is poking up through a layer of shredded leaves. I am looking forward to tilling the garden and planting tomatoes, summer squash, and herbs. Since it is still way too early for that, I will probably pull out the cold frame and plant some lettuce this weekend. I just can’t wait to start gardening!

Okay, you are probably thinking, what does all of this have to do with WISEWOMAN? The common thread is getting outside and being active, and being active is an important part of WISEWOMAN. Now that the weather is getting nicer, it is much easier to be active.

As you are talking with your WISEWOMAN participants over the next few weeks, remind them that spring is here! Ask them if they plan to take advantage of temperatures above freezing! They do not have to train for a marathon or the tour de France. Encourage them to get outside even if it is just for a few minutes each day. It is amazing what a little sunshine and fresh air can do to make you feel better about life. When you feel better about life, you tend to make healthier choices, and when you make healthier choices, you feel better about life. It is a vicious pleasant circle.

Enjoy the spring!

Friday, April 1, 2011

An Ounce of Prevention

Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” With that in mind, let’s talk about chronic disease prevention. Part of what we do in WISEWOMAN is screen for chronic disease risk factors.

After the clinical screening, we sit down with our participants and talk to them about their risk factors. There are some risk factors we can’t do anything about. You cannot change your age, your family medical history, or your personal medical history. However, there are other risk factors that are modifiable.

The modifiable risk factors we screen for in WISEWOMAN are: overweight/obesity; high blood pressure; high total cholesterol; low HDL cholesterol; elevated glucose; physical inactivity; and smoking. When we talk risk factors, we also talk about lifestyle behavior changes. The behavior change areas we focus on are nutrition, physical activity, and smoking cessation. Making a positive change in one of these areas is generally a healthy thing to do. It can also have a positive impact on specific conditions.

In January, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association came out with their Guidelines for the Primary Prevention of Stroke. I briefly mentioned these guidelines a few weeks ago in the “Eat Your Veggies” blog posting. After looking over the guidelines more closely, I noticed some recommendations related to WISEWOMAN that are worth mentioning.

1) In agreement with the Joint National Committee (JNC 7) report, regular blood pressure (BP) screening and appropriate treatment, including both lifestyle modification and pharmacological therapy are recommended. – Well, guess what? We do this in WISEWOMAN. Our participants have their blood pressure checked at least every year during their clinical screening.

2) Abstention from cigarette smoking by nonsmokers and smoking cessation by current smokers are recommended . . . . status of tobacco use should be addressed at every patient encounter. – When we identify a woman who smokes, we encourage her to stop smoking when she is ready. We also offer help in the form of the Michigan Tobacco Quitline and other smoking cessation resources.

3) A Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH)-style diet, which emphasizes consumption of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and is reduced in saturated fat, also lowers BP and is recommended . . . a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables and thereby high in potassium is beneficial and may lower risk of stroke. – The WISEWOMAN nutrition recommendations are based on a modified DASH diet. Our focus is on fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, and whole grains.

4) Increased physical activity is recommended because it is associated with a reduction in risk of stroke . . . adults should engage in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity . . . aerobic physical activity. – Can you believe it? This is yet another modifiable risk factor we focus on in WISEWOMAN! Many of our women are pretty sedentary when they start, so we do not try to move them to 150 minutes the first week. We encourage them to take small steps. Even 5 or 10 minutes a day for someone who is not doing anything will help.

5) Among overweight and obese persons, weight reduction is recommended as a means to lower BP . . . . (and) as a means of reducing risk of stroke. – WISEWOMAN is not a weight loss program, but we do confront overweight and obesity as a modifiable risk factor. Inevitably when we talk about goals, a woman who is overweight will talk about wanting to lose weight.

What does all this mean? Does it mean if you are in WISEWOMAN you will never have a stroke? Of course, not. It does mean there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of having a stroke, and (not so) coincidentally, much of what WISEWOMAN recommends will help reduce the risk of having a stroke. If you talk with someone who has had a stroke, they will tell you preventing the stroke is better than curing the results. Just read Yvette Fields story.

Other Stroke Resources

American Stroke Association:

Power to End Stroke:

National Stroke Association: