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Sun, Feb. 23

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

Revised blood pressure guidelines from American Heart Association mean that nearly half of all Americans (46 percent) have high blood pressure. The condition is often referred to as “The Silent Killer” because there are usually no warning signs or symptoms.

For that reason, the James Family Prescott Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) — a leading, community-based organization committed to improving health — urges everyone to get a blood pressure screening this month, American Heart Month.

While high blood pressure and heart disease are serious conditions, 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 healthy programs such as swimming or aqua classes, land-based group classes — like Silver Sneakers, Zumba or our own Y-Fit — or sign up for a free orientation and start your own personal fitness program.

Reducing sodium intake is a great way to keep your heart healthy. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), too much sodium puts an extra burden on your heart and blood vessels. In some people, this can lead to an increase in 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 Mary Byrne, health and wellness director for the James Family Prescott 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,” she said.

To address the prevalence of heart disease, the Y has made a national commitment to the Million Hearts campaign. This initiative — spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — aims to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes.

In addition to programs and services offered at the Y in the Prescott area, the following health tips are from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help reduce sodium in your diet.

Think fresh: Most of the sodium Americans eat is in processed foods, so eat 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 salt consumption.

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.

The James Family Prescott YMCA offers a community of diverse individuals who support all people in meeting their health and well-being goals. Learn more by visiting or stop by today for a tour.

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