UNMC Study to Gauge Heart Risk in Nebraska Farmers

Most people think American farmers lead an active lifestyle that keeps them in shape. But just as advanced machinery, computers and fast-food have influenced the general population, so has it influenced farmers.


The University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing Lincoln Division has launched a pilot study to gauge heart disease risk in farmers. The $20,000 study is funded by the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health at the UNMC College of Public Health and will recruit farmers with the help of two public health districts that cover nine counties in northeast and southeast Nebraska.


“We picture farmers as lifting hay bales and working with cattle,” said Paula Schulz, Ph.D., associate professor, UNMC College of Nursing Lincoln Division. “But, so much of farming is automated today that farmers don’t do as much physical work.


“They have air conditioned cabs with GPS. They drive to the range or the barn or to check on livestock, they are in front of their computers and eating more fast food like the general population,” she said.


Dr. Schulz, principal investigator of the study, said those living in rural areas with geographical and cultural barriers experience greater health disparities in receiving standard risk factor reduction strategies.


She said little is known about the physical activity levels and dietary habits of farmers in today’s environment.


“We have a large number of farmers in Nebraska and because of the disparities that exist, different lifestyle strategies are needed to reduce the risk of heart disease and address health promotion. We saw a need and found out no one has done studies to objectively measure physical activity in farmers.”


Researchers will recruit 40 individuals age 19 and older whose main occupation is farming. Recruitment will occur through two public health districts — Public Health Solutions in southeast Nebraska and Elkhorn Logan Valley in northeast Nebraska. The counties include Fillmore, Gage, Jefferson, Saline, Thayer, Burt, Cuming, Madison and Stanton counties.


In the one-year study, researchers will collect information about physical activity and dietary habits, quality of life and cardiovascular disease. The study requires participants to complete survey questions and wear a device that measures activity during peak farming season and during off season.


Researchers hope the information from the small study can be used in future grant proposals to identify strategies that could be tailored to the farming lifestyle to reduce heart disease risk.


Co-investigators of the study are Lani Zimmerman Ph.D., College of Nursing Lincoln Division and Patrick Johansson, M.D., UNMC College of Public Health. Farmers interested in participating can contact Paula Schulz at (402) 472-7336 or pschulz@unmc.edu or call Elkhorn Logan Valley Public Health Department at (402-529)-2233.

Editorial: Take Care of Your Heart

The leading cause of death among men and women is heart disease. Approximately 600,000 people a year die of heart disease.

There are many health risks contributing to heart disease. The first being diabetes. The health risks that can cause diabetes also cause heart disease. They include: Overweight/obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity. Excessive alcohol use also may lead to heart disease.

Obesity and those that are overweight have been of great concern throughout the country. First Lady Michelle Obama has lead a charge trying to curb bad eating habits among our youth, implementing healthier school lunches.

People seem to be busier, both parents working and less balanced meals being prepared. It seems that the choice is to buy quick and easy meals, or fast food, rather than eat healthy. Junk food is also a food choice when snacking as opposed to a good snack, such as carrots, celery and fruit.

Along with being obese or overweight comes lack of physical activity. Technology has taken people away from moving their bodies around to just moving their fingers. People need to move around! People also sit too much. Set a timer and after sitting for 30 minutes, get up and walk around for five to ten minutes. If so inclined, do some leg lifts and/or squats during this time.

After a hard day at work, it is hard to find the time to exercise. Many people just go home, eat supper and sit in front of the TV. Even 30 minutes of cardio three to four times a week will improve your over all health. Shut off the TV and walk! Lifting weights a few times a week is also highly recommended. Exercise also makes a person feel more energized and all around happier!

High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and smoking are also risk factors for heart disease. To protect your heart, follow your doctor’s orders and take your medications. Stop smoking immediately. Your doctor can offer assistance to help you stop smoking.

Also, eat healthy and exercise.

We are all only here once! Take care of your health and your heart so you may enjoy a long, healthy, happy life with your loved ones.

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