Heart Health Month Tips
February is American Heart Month, decreased physical activity due to COVID-19, it’s important to use this month to get a blood pressure screening and focus on becoming heart healthy. Below are tips for the whole family to become heart healthy this February.
- Get Physical: Being physically active every day is fun and can improve the function of your heart. Plan and schedule opportunities for active play; for example, include a brisk 10-minute trip around the block after meals or a 10-minute walking break during the day. If your family enjoys video games, select active versions that require moving the body’s large muscle groups while playing.
- Take a Snooze: Lack of sleep can be associated with elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. Adults need at least seven, but no more than nine hours of sleep at night to aid with the prevention of heart disease. Children need 10-12 hours of sleep per night. Develop bedtime routines for the whole family to assist with falling asleep faster and staying asleep.
- Shape Up Those Recipes: Makeover your family’s favorite recipes by reducing the amount of salt and saturated fat and substituting a lower fat food without sacrificing tastes. For example, use low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream and skip the seasoning packet and use pepper and olive oil instead. Read food labels to learn more about what is in the package, select foods that have less than 1,000 mg of sodium per serving. Get recipe ideas or more nutrition tips by joining one of the free groups in our app! For more nutrition guidance, we offer FUEL, a personal nutrition program.
- Feeling the Pressure: Revised blood pressure guidelines from American Heart Association mean that nearly half of all Americans (46 percent) have high blood pressure. Lowering or maintaining normal blood pressure can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Start self-monitoring your blood pressure and know the numbers. Visit our Blood Pressure self-monitoring station in our Getz Health Improvement room. Discuss the results with you doctor if needed.
- Play Together: Spending time together as a family is a great way to reduce stress, which is important to heart health. Make homemade valentines for your children’s classmates, build a snow fort together in the yard or the park, or have a family swim at the Y.
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 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 heart health awareness program like Reclaim at the Two Rivers YMCA.
The Two Rivers YMCA offers the Reclaim Program as a Phase 3 Cardiac Rehab that helps adults at risk for, or recovering from, a cardiac event better manage their blood pressure and monitor risk factor changes. The program focuses on regular monitoring of blood pressure, guided cardiovascular and muscle endurance activity, individualized support and nutrition education, decrease the risk of a cardiac event, and improve their quality of life.
Research shows that the simple process of checking and recording your blood pressure at least twice a month over 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.
To date, 150 participants in the Quad Cities have participated in the program. As a result, participants have lowered their systolic blood pressure, decreased medication because of increased physical activity, lowered sodium intake by 40%, and gained exercise and nutrition knowledge to feel more confident in their daily living activities.
In addition to monitoring your blood pressure, reducing sodium intake is a great way to keep your heart healthy. Per the American Heart Association (AHA), 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 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 and decrease chances of a heart attack or stoke.