By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
For February, American Heart Month, the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City urges everyone in the community to help prevent heart disease by lowering their blood pressure.
As a leading community-based network committed to improving the nation’s health, The Y recommends two ways to keep the pressure off your heart, monitoring your blood pressure and reducing sodium intake.
“There are many factors in keeping your heart healthy and having a handle on your blood pressure is an effective tool in preventing heart disease,” said Angela Jones, Director of Health and Wellness Initiatives for the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City.
“Losing just 10-20 pounds can decease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 5 mmHg on average, which can significantly reduce risk for a heart attack. Whether you have high blood pressure or are at risk for heart disease, the Y has many options available that can help.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the nation’s number one killer, responsible for 1 in 4 deaths each year in the United States.
Additionally, 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure with less than half of them having it under control. High blood pressure is most prevalent in minority communities. It is often referred to as “The Silent Killer” because there are typically no warning signs or symptoms.
To address the prevalence of heart disease, 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.
The goal of this campaign is to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes across the nation. This month, people can commit to a heart-healthy lifestyle by participating in the #HeartMonth challenge by visiting millionhearts.hhs.gov.
Along with monitoring blood pressure, reducing sodium intake is another way to keep your heart healthy. According to 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 high blood pressure.
Studies show that everyone, including children, 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 lower or even avoid high blood pressure.
In addition to programs and services offered in Oklahoma City, 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 Y provides a group of diverse individuals who can support people in the community in meeting their health and well-being goals.