Heart – Open Your Heart to American Heart Month

Open Your Heart to American Heart Month

According to the CDC, about 659,000 people in the United States die every year from heart disease, which is 1 in every 4 deaths. In addition, one person dies every 36 seconds from heart disease. Heart disease costs amount to $363 billion each year, accounting for health care costs, medicines, and lost productivity due to health. The CDC also says heart disease is also the leading cause of death for men, women, and most people of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States. This accounts for 23.5% of deaths in African Americans, 20.3% in Hispanics, 21.4% in Asian American/Pacific Islanders, and 18.3% in American Indian/Alaskan Natives. If these statistics seem scary, you are not alone. There are many who would find these statistics discouraging. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps to prevent heart disease for yourself and your loved ones.

Since February is American Heart Month, now is the best time to find out how to prevent heart disease and how to stay heart healthy. With the variety of healthy living programs at the Harrisburg Area YMCA Center for Healthy Living, you have the tools you need to get started!

Freedom from Smoking

According to Freedom from Smoking, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It causes 480,000 deaths per year; nearly one in five deaths. What does quitting tobacco look like?

  • 20 minutes after quitting smoking, your heart rate drops to a normal level.
  • 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to a normal level.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, your risk of having a heart attack begins to drop.
  • 1 year after quitting, your risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker. 
  • 5 to 15 years after quitting, your risk of having a stroke is reduced to that of a nonsmoker.
  • 15 years after quitting, your risk of coronary heart disease is the same as that of a nonsmoker.

According to Eric Rothermel, Director of Policy & Outreach at the YMCA Center for Healthy Living, “Most of the participants of the Freedom From Smoking program have issues related to heart disease and the predominant issue is hypertension.” 

Freedom From Smoking helps you learn how to know if you are ready to quit. It can help you with medications that can increase your success and lifestyle changes that make quitting easier. To learn more about Freedom From Smoking or other Tobacco Cessation Programs, click here. For more info or to sign up for one of these programs, please contact Eric Rothermel at 717-232-3107.

Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring

According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 3 Americans has high blood pressure, which is nearly 80 million adults. High blood pressure is most prevalent in racial and ethnic minority populations. It is often called the “silent killer” because there are typically no warning signs or symptoms. It is a key, modifiable risk factor for both heart disease and stroke, which are two of the leading causes of death in the United States. Long-term adherence to lifestyle modifications and medication treatment can be challenging. However, many studies have focused on the potential of self-monitoring as a tool for blood pressure management. 

According to Amy Jacobs, Director of Community Integrated Health, “The Y designed the Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring program to help adults with hypertension lower and manage their blood pressure with the support from a trained Healthy Heart Ambassador. Participants learn how to measure and record blood pressure readings at least twice a month, attend two personalized consultations per month, and attend monthly nutrition education seminars. The goals of the program are to have the participants experience a reduction in blood pressure, learn better blood pressure management, gain an increased awareness of triggers that elevate blood pressure, and have enhanced knowledge to develop healthier eating habits. The majority of participants in the Blood-Pressure Self-Monitoring program have early signs that could lead to heart disease or they have a current diagnosis of heart disease.”

For more information or to sign up, contact Amy Jacobs at 717-232-3113.

Diabetes Prevention Program

From the Y-USA website: “Forming healthy habits can be hard without a support system. We’re here to give you the encouragement to eat better, increase your physical activity and lose weight- all of which can delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Learn more about our Diabetes Prevention Program, available at more than 200 Ys across the country.”

The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program can help you stay heart healthy by helping you make small changes to your diet. According to Megan Maurer, Senior Program Director, “The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program (YDPP) works to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 Diabetes. The CDC states that a person with diabetes is twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke as opposed to someone without diabetes. The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program also focuses on healthy lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and being more physically active. This in turn has a positive effect on heart health. Typically, we see about 30% of YDPP participants who also have elevated blood pressure.”

To learn more and to see if you qualify, click here. To learn how to get involved, contact Megan Maurer at 717-232-2004.

Nutrition Counseling Program

One of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle is a person’s eating habits. What you eat has a significant impact on your health, especially your heart. Your diet affects many things such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. The Y’s Nutrition Counseling Program allows you to speak to a registered dietician to create a nutrition plan that works toward your health goals. 

According to Mattie Lefever, Registered Dietitian, “The YMCA Nutrition Counseling program encourages clients to adopt heart-healthy eating habits through choosing healthy fats and lean protein over saturated or trans fats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, whole grains, and controlled portions. The overall focus is a high fiber, high plant food diet with low saturated fat. Heart-healthy diets are moderate in low-fat dairy and seafood, and low in processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains, and sodium. Studies have shown this dietary pattern may help lower blood pressure, obesity, uncontrolled diabetes. It can also prevent premature death, sudden cardiac deaths, and ischemic strokes. There have been 20+ participants since the program started in Fall 2021 that have specifically worked on adopting heart-healthy eating to reduce the burden of heart disease.”

To learn more about this program, contact Mattie Lefever at 717-686-4873.

What are You Waiting For?

If one of these programs applies to you, then now is the perfect time to sign up. Heart health is important and American Heart Month is the best time to learn how to stay heart-healthy and prevent heart disease. So what are you waiting for? Sign up today!


–Mack Schmitz, Program Assistant

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