Posted on 01/31/2018 at 12:00 AM by YMCA of Greater Des Moines
Eat well, exercise — the cure to a million things, right? Well, here are a few lesser known ways to protect your ticker during American Heart Month. With new blood pressure guidelines recently released, more of us (nearly half!) are at risk than previously thought.
Per guidelines released by the American Heart Association in November, 46 percent of Americans are now classified as having high blood pressure, and it’s not just older people who are at risk. High blood pressure is referred to as a “silent killer” because often there are no symptoms.
Get screened at your local clinic or this month at the YMCA with the assistance of Community Health Partners (check with your branch for times). We also host special events and programs, like this month’s heart health series at the South Suburban YMCA and Heart Health classes as part of our YMCA Medical Programming package.
While healthy eating and an active lifestyle are common prescriptions, here are a few lesser known ways to nurture your heart health.
Another reason not to stay cooped up all winter: A 2010 study found that people who spent time in natural environments — walking in a forest as opposed to a city — had lower blood pressure, lower concentrations of the “stress hormone” cortisol and a lower pulse rate. Plus, being outside is often accompanied by walking (learn about the Walk with Ease program), running, biking and playing — all great ways to stay active.
Speaking of cortisol, stress “changes the neurotransmitters in the brain,” and it “triggers the adrenal glands to produce hormones that increase blood pressure," Dr. Brandy Patterson of the University of Virginia tells Health. Make sure you’re managing stress in healthy ways, like by exercising, listening to music, reading, meditating or playing with your kids or pet.
All that time you’ve spent helping the Y host community events, raise funds and coach basketball teams may be coming through in your health report! The Health and Retirement Study found that people who volunteered on a regular basis (at least 200 hours a year) were less likely to develop high blood pressure over a four-year period than non-volunteers.
Another 2016 report in Psychosomatic Medicine found that people with a “high sense of purpose in life” had a lower risk of suffering a cardiovascular event (such as a heart attack or stroke), compared with those who had a lower sense of purpose.
Fresh, home-prepared foods and lots of fruit and veggies are pretty much always a good idea, and your heart health is no exception. But some eating regimens, like the DASH Diet, are particularly high in “calcium, magnesium, and antioxidants, all of which contribute to lowering blood pressure,” Dr. Nieca Goldberg explains to Health.
Foods that are high in potassium may also reduce the impact that sodium has on your body. Think potatoes, beet greens, tomato juice/sauce, sweet potatoes, beans (white, lima, kidney), bananas, yogurt, clams, halibut, orange juice and milk. Health reports that probiotics (healthy bacteria found in fermented foods like yogurt) may reduce blood pressure as well.
Did you know you can track your nutrition in our free ActivTrax program?
Over the past several decades, sleep duration has decreased 1.5 to 2 hours per night per person, and several studies have linked shortened sleep duration (less than six hours) with an increased risk of heart disease. Can you finish binge watching that show tomorrow? Can that email wait another day? Your heart is more important.
How are you working toward improved heart health? Share with our Y crew in the comments!
As always, talk to your doctor before starting a new regimen.