February is American Heart Month, and as a leading community-based organization, the YMCA is committed to improving the health of the community through Healthy Living programming.
Revised guidelines from the American Heart Association indicate 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 health conditions, the good news is that maintaining a healthy heart is an achievable goal through simple lifestyle changes, including:
- Lowering your sodium intake
- Eating healthier
- Increasing your physical activity
Here are some helpful tips from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on ways you can reduce sodium in your diet and eat healthier:
- Think fresh: Most of the sodium Americans eat is found in processed foods. Be sure to 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 meals: Cook more often at home—where you are in control of what’s in your food. Preparing your own meals allows you to limit the amount of salt in them.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
At the Y, we know that being healthy is about more than just exercising your body. In order to embrace a healthy lifestyle, we must balance physical fitness with an equally strong mind and spirit. At the Y, we offer the people, programs and support that will help you to pursue and achieve this balance. If you are looking to take the first step in embracing a healthier lifestyle, the Y is here for you! Stop by your local branch today and speak to a member of our health and wellness team.