YMCA OF GREATER WAUKESHA COUNTY
TAKE CARE OF YOUR HEART
YMCA of the USA
Thursday, February 1, 2018
Think You Don’t Have High Blood Pressure? Think Again.
New blood pressure guidelines make American Heart Month the perfect time for a check-up.
February is American Heart Month, and as a leading community-based organization committed to improving health, the YMCA of Greater Waukesha County urges everyone to get a blood pressure screening. Revised blood pressure guidelines from American Heart Association mean that nearly half of all Americans (46%) have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is often referred to as “The Silent Killer” because there are typically no warning signs or symptoms.
While high blood pressure and heart disease are serious conditions, the good news is that a healthy heart is an achievable goal through lifestyle changes such as lowering sodium intake, eating healthier, and getting more physical activity. Getting help can be as easy as going to your local Y and taking part in our Diabetes Prevention Program.
The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program – which is part of the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program – helps adults adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles to help reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and people with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or suffer a stroke than those who do not have it.
The program provides a supportive environment where participants work together in a small group to learn about eating healthier, increasing their physical activity, and making other behavior changes. A trained lifestyle coach leads the program over a 12-month period. Increased physical activity and moderate weight loss not only reduce diabetes risk, but also have an impact on lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
Reducing sodium intake is a great way to keep your heart healthy. Per the American Heart Association, too much sodium in your system puts an extra burden on your heart and blood vessels. In some people, this may lead to or raise high blood pressure. Everyone, including kids, should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt). Having less sodium in your diet may help you lower or avoid high blood pressure.
In addition to programs and services, the Y offers the following tips from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help reduce sodium in your diet.
- Think fresh: Most of the sodium Americans eat is found in processed foods. Eat highly processed foods less often and in smaller portions, especially cheesy foods, such as pizza; cured meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli/luncheon meats; and ready-to-eat foods, like canned chili, ravioli, and soups. Fresh foods are generally lower in sodium.
- Enjoy home-prepared foods: Cook more often at home, where you are in control of what’s in your food. Preparing your own foods allows you to limit the amount of salt in them.
- Fill up on veggies and fruits: Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits – fresh or frozen – because they are naturally low in sodium. Eat a vegetable or fruit at every meal.
- Adjust your taste buds: Cut back on salt little by little and pay attention to the natural tastes of various foods. Your taste for salt will lessen over time. Additionally, keep salt off the dinner table and substitute spices, herbs, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice to season foods.
- Boost your potassium intake: Choose foods with potassium, which may help to lower your blood pressure. Potassium is found in vegetables and fruits, such as potatoes, beet greens, tomato juice and sauce, sweet potatoes, beans (white, lima, kidney), and bananas. Other sources of potassium include yogurt, clams, halibut, orange juice, and milk.
There are many factors in keeping your heart healthy and having a handle on your blood pressure and sodium intake are effective tools in the preventing heart disease. Whether you have high blood pressure, are at risk for heart disease or want to keep your heart healthy, the Y has resources that can help you achieve your health and well-being goals.