Tips and programs provided during American Heart Month

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UNION COUNTY, NJ — February is American Heart Month, and with recently published research indicating blood pressure control has worsened in both men and women since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Gateway Family YMCA urges community members to make their health a priority by getting a blood pressure screening. Blood pressure guidelines from the American Heart Association indicate that nearly half of all Americans, 46%, 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 a healthy heart is an achievable goal through lifestyle changes such as regularly monitoring your own blood pressure, lowering sodium intake, eating healthier and getting more physical activity. Getting help can be as easy as contacting the Y and taking part in a free community chronic disease management program.

“While there are many ways to keep your heart healthy, making a conscious effort to tackle your blood pressure and decrease sodium intake are two quick, effective ways to prevent heart disease,” said Melynda A. Disla, president/CEO, The Gateway Family YMCA. “No matter what your heart health goal is this year, the Y has a variety of resources to help you get started and achieve them.”

The Gateway 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 during 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.

Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring programs are available in Elizabeth, Rahway and Union – at both YMCA branches and in the local community through community groups, senior centers and local library collaborations. The program is available in both English and Spanish. Nationally, the YMCA’s Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program is available at more than 700 locations in 71 states.
In addition, The Gateway Family YMCA is continuing its increased availability of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program – which is part of the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program. The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program helps adults at high risk for 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 those who do not have it.

The program provides a supportive environment where participants work together in a small group to learn about eating healthier, increasing their physical activity and making other behavior changes with the goal of reducing body weight by 7% in order to reduce their risk for developing diabetes. A trained lifestyle coach leads the program during 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.

In addition to monitoring your blood pressure, reducing sodium intake is a great way to keep your heart healthy. Per 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 or raise high blood pressure. 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 you lower or avoid high blood pressure.

Photos Courtesy of Colleen Clayton