By Rose L. Thayer

Killeen Daily Herald

While it's easy to blame poor health on uncontrollable factors, half of a person's well-being comes from lifestyle choices, according to information from a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We always want to blame something else," said Andrew Crocker, an Amarillo-based gerontology specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

The CDC study showed 19 percent of a person's health is impacted by the environment, while genetics impacts 21 percent and access to care just 10 percent.

"Of all of the slices of that pie, (lifestyle) is the one where you have the most potential to do positive impact," said Crocker. "I think it's important to help people understand, I do have some say in these things."

He said it's also important for people to understand that a drastic overhaul of their lifestyle is not required.

"Start low and go slow," he said.

Kay Brown, area coordinator for Take Off Pounds Sensibly, agreed. Last year, the nonprofit weight-loss organization helped Texans lose more than 800,000 pounds.

"We want to start small," she said. "If you start trying to change everything in your life at once, we get off track, because we take on too much."

Good places to start

Brown said a good place to start is with cooking. Instead of frying foods, try baking or grilling. Or eliminate one soda a day.

"You'd be surprised what a change subbing one soft drink a day for a glass of water can be. And that's easy to do," she said.

Adding physical activity to one's daily routine can boost health positively.

After having a heart attack, Killeen resident Maggie Bates decided to take charge of her health and began attending line dancing classes at the Lions Club Park Senior Center.

"It's a lot more fun than walking on the treadmill," she said. "I know it is (benefiting my health)."

For Laura Zischang, the class not only provides physical health benefits, but mental benefits as well.

"I've had loss in my life over the last couple of years, including my job ... and it gives me a reason to count the days," she said. "I can come here and forget the rest of the world and just be a beautiful, young dancer."

Terrel Simmons, the class instructor, said he sees a total of about 60 seniors at his aerobics, line dancing and swing classes at the center. He tries to incorporate dance moves that give a good workout and also improve flexibility, range of motion and memorization.

"You don't want them to be sedentary, gain weight or become depressed," he said. "This helps uplift their spirits and gives them positive energy."

Brown said incorporating exercise into any part of the day, even in small increments, can improve health.

"If you work at a desk, get up every hour and just walk up and down the hall," she said. "Everything you can do makes a difference."

Another piece of the pie that can be easily altered is a person's environment, said Crocker. Increasing safety in the home can reduce the number of falls or accidents.

Crocker suggested securing loose rugs and cords, improving lighting and clearing walkways. Also, he said people who use walkers or canes outside their homes should use them inside their homes.

"Don't wait until you have an accident," he said.

For more information or tips on simple lifestyle changes, go to or

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

Healthy habits help you save money

Some lifestyle changes that can save money:

Exchange one soda a day for a glass of water and save nearly $250 a year.

Quit smoking. A pack-a-day smoking habit can rack up more than $2,550 each year.

Eating out for lunch costs about $5.75. By bringing a lunch, people can save about $1,500 annually.

- Texas AgriLife Extension Service

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