Heart health

YMCA expands program targeting diet/lifestyle

MARQUETTE — Valentines Day is fast approaching, but instead of candy and flowers the American Heart Association and the YMCA of Marquette County are focussed on reducing high blood pressure.

February has been dubbed American Heart Month and as a result, YMCA’s across the nation have made a commitment to the Million Hearts Campaign — an initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and centers for Medicare and Medicaid services in an effort to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes.

High blood pressure is often referred to as “The Silent Killer” because there are typically no warning signs or symptoms, a YMCA press release from Sunday states.

The YMCA of Marquette County will increase the availability its Diabetes Prevention Program, which helps adults at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles to help reduce their chances of developing the disease.

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 percent in order reduce their risk for developing diabetes, Marquette County YMCA Healthy Living Director Christina A. Bennett said.

“The participants own the solution,” Bennett said. “We don’t tell them what to do, we ask them questions and they decide on a course of action.”

Bennett said because it spurs lifestyle changes, DPD program benefits are not isolated to diabetes prevention.

“With any lifestyle change and healthy habits, your body is going to change,” Bennett said. “That can get you headed in the right direction. It’s not just blood pressure or blood sugar it’s a number of things.”

Bennett said 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.

Changes in AHA blood pressure guidelines, revised in 2017, mean nearly half of all Americans — 46 percent — have high blood pressure.

Prevalence of high blood pressure is expected to triple among men under age 45 and double among women under 45, an American College of Cardiology article states. although officials expect the change will only cause a small increase in the number of adults requiring antihypertensive medication.

“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,” the YMCA release states.

Reducing sodium intake can have a positive impact on heart health. According to the AHA, too much sodium in your system puts an extra burden on your heart and blood vessels.

Recommended sodium intake for all Americans, even kids is 2,300 milligrams per day –roughly a teaspoon, the release states.

“There are many factors in keeping your heart healthy and having a handle on your blood pressure and sodium intake are effective tools in preventing heart disease,” Bennett said.

Some tips for to lower dietary sodium intake from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are:

≤ Eat fresh foods which are generally lower in sodium. Most of the sodium Americans eat is found in processed foods. Such foods, like pizza, cured meats such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli or luncheon meats, and ready-to-eat foods such as canned chili, ravioli and soups.

≤ Enjoy home-prepared foods. Home-cooked meals allow you to control the amount of salt in your food.

≤ Fill up on fruits and vegetables that are naturally low in sodium. The USDA recommends eating a vegetable or fruit with every meal.

≤ Choose foods with potassium, which may help to lower blood pressure. Potassium can be found in vegetables and fruits. Potatoes, beet greens, tomato juice and sauce, white, lima, and kidney beans, bananas and sweet potatoes are all good sources of potassium.

≤ Adjust your taste buds, cutting back salt little by little — and pay attention to the natural taste in various foods. Other tips include: keeping salt off of the kitchen counter and dinner table and substitute spices, herbs, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice to season foods.

The YMCA is currently seeking participants for its Diabetes Prevention Program, Bennett said.

The cost of the program is $429 for the entire year, and can be paid via a payment plan, she said.

“We are working with the CDC and looking into the possibility of health insurance covering the program,” Bennett said.

The YMCA is a good place to start for anyone seeking a healthier lifestyle, she said.

“Whether you have high blood pressure, are at risk for heart disease or want to keep your heart healthy,” Bennett said, “the Y has resources that can help achieve better health.”

Anyone interested in in the Diabetes Prevention Program should contact the YMCA of Marquette County by phone 906-227-9622.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.