Working Toward a Healthier Heart

American Heart Month is the perfect time to commit to a healthy heart.

By Kim Gray, COO, Joplin Family Y


Nearly half of all Americans have high blood pressure, also known as The Silent Killer because it typically has no warning signs or symptoms. February is American Heart Month, and as a leading community-based organization committed to improving local health, the Joplin Family Y urges everyone to be blood-pressure conscious.


While high blood pressure and heart disease are serious conditions, those at risk can improve their heart health through a healthy lifestyle.


Research shows the simple process of checking and recording your blood pressure at least twice a month over a four-month period, along with reducing sodium intake, and getting regular physical activity and proper nutrition, can help people with high blood pressure.


Reducing sodium intake is a great way to keep your heart healthy. Too much sodium in your system puts an extra burden on your heart and blood vessels. In some people, this can lead to or raise blood pressure. Everyone, including kids, should reduce their sodium intake to less than about one teaspoon of salt. Having less sodium in your diet can help you lower or avoid high blood pressure.


“There are many factors in keeping your heart healthy, and like handling your sodium intake, staying active helps prevent heart disease,” said Cookie Estrada, CEO, Joplin Family Y. “Whether you have high blood pressure, are at risk for heart disease or want to keep your heart healthy, the Y’s exercise equipment and classes can help people achieve the better health they deserve.”


The United States Department of Agriculture has the following tips to help reduce sodium in your diet.


  1. Avoid processed foods: Most Americans ingest excess sodium from processed foods. Passing up on that extra slice of pizza, serving of bacon and can of chili in favor of fresh foods can make a big difference to your heart.
  2. Enjoy home-prepared foods: Cook at home more often. At home, you are in control of your food. Preparing your own meals allows you to limit the amount of salt in them.
  3. 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 season foods with spices, herbs, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice.
  4. Boost your potassium intake: Choosing foods with potassium can help 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 Joplin Family Y dedicates itself to supporting all people in meeting their health and well-being goals. Learn more about our classes and events by visiting or calling at 417.781.YMCA.