February is American Heart Health Month

February is American Heart Health Month

Make a Vow to Lower Blood Pressure and Reduce Sodium Intake during American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month, and as a leading community-based organization committed to improving the nation’s health, the Gaston County Family YMCA urges everyone in Gaston County to get a blood pressure screening. Revised blood pressure guidelines from American Heart Association mean that nearly half of all Americans (46 percent) 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 Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program.

The Gaston County Family YMCA offers the YMCA’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program that helps adults with hypertension lower and better manage their blood pressure. The program focuses on regular monitoring of one’s blood pressure at home using proper measuring techniques, individualized support and nutrition education to potentially reduce blood pressure and improve their quality of life. 

Research shows that the simple process of checking and recording your blood pressure at least twice a month over a four-month period, along with regular physical activity, proper nutrition and reducing sodium intake, may lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure. 

To date, 18 participants in Gaston County have participated in the program. Nationally, the YMCA’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program is available at more than 400 locations in 40 states and, thanks to generous support from the CDC’s Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention division, will continue to expand in 2020. To date, participants have lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average of 11.1 mmhg between initial and final readings.

In addition to monitoring your blood pressure, reducing sodium intake is a great way to keep your heart healthy. Per the American Heart Association (AHA), 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. 

“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,” said Richard Hamilton, Wellness Director, Stowe Family YMCA. “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 achieve better health.” 

In addition to programs and services offered in Gaston County the Y offers the following tips from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help reduce sodium in your diet.  

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Fill up on veggies and fruits—they are naturally low in sodium: Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits—fresh or frozen. Eat a vegetable or fruit at every meal.
  4. 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 kitchen counter and the dinner table and substitute spices, herbs, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice to season foods. 
  5. 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. 

The Gaston County Family YMCA offers a community of diverse individuals who can support all people in meeting their health and well-being goals. Learn more by visiting GastonYMCA.org or stopping into your local Y.