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Improve Your Health During American Heart Month

YMCA of Greater Kansas City
February 2, 2018
Active Older Adult Wellness and Social Activities at the Y

February is American Heart Month, and as a leading community-based organization committed to improving the nation’s health, the YMCA of Greater Kansas City urges everyone in the community to get a blood pressure screening. New guidelines set in place by the American Heart Association now indicate that nearly half of all Americans (46 percent) have high blood pressure. Due to its lack of signs or symptoms, high blood pressure is often referred to as “The Silent Killer.”

The Y has made a national commitment to the Million Hearts campaign, an initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that aims to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes.

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 take part in the Diabetes Prevention Program.

The Y’s Diabetes Prevention Program helps adults at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles to help reduce their chances of developing the disease. 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, as opposed to those who do not have it.

Here in Kansas City, the Diabetes Prevention Program launched in 2014 and has helped hundreds of people. The program provides a supportive environment where participants work together in small groups to learn about eating healthier, increasing their physical activity and making other behavior changes with the goal of reducing their risk for developing diabetes. 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 also 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. The AHA recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day for everyone, including children. Having less sodium in your diet may help lower, or avoid, high blood pressure.

In addition, 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 YMCA of Greater Kansas City offers a community of diverse individuals who can support all people in meeting their health and well-being goals. Learn more by exploring or stopping by your local Y.