YMCA of WNC: Are you heart healthy?

February is American Heart Month — are you heart healthy?

From the YMCA of Western North Carolina:

February is American Heart Month and as a leading voice on improving the region’s health and well-being, the YMCA of Western North Carolina urges everyone in the region to take steps to make sure they are heart healthy so they can lead longer, healthier lives.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the nation’s number one killer, responsible for 1 in 4 deaths each year in the United States. The Y offers community-based healthy living and chronic disease prevention initiatives that support people in changing their lifestyles, encourage organizations and communities to adopt behaviors that promote healthy living and promote the public’s health through advocacy.

Nationally, to address the prevalence of heart disease, the Y made a commitment to the Million Hearts campaign, an initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes. As part of this commitment, the Y is piloting the YMCA Healthy Heart Initiative, a program that helps participants with hypertension lower their blood pressure through a self-monitoring practice.


Also part of the Y’s commitment to Million Hearts is increasing the availability of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program – which is part of the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program. The YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program helps adults at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles to help reduce their chances of developing the disease. 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.

Here in Western North Carolina we have offered the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program since May 2012 serving 196 people who have seen great results—10.92% weight loss (compared to the program’s 4.9% national average) and dramatic reductions in glucose. 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 to reduce their risk for developing diabetes. The program, led by a trained Lifestyle Coach in a classroom setting, is delivered over a 12-month period beginning with 16 weekly sessions followed by eight monthly sessions. Increased physical activity and moderate weight loss not only reduce diabetes risk, but also have an impact on lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. To learn more about the YMCA of Western North Carolina’s Diabetes Prevention Program, please contact Meghan Merritt at 828 559 2404 or mmerritt@ymcawnc.org.

In addition to programs and services offered in Western North Carolina, the Y offers the following tips on how to live heart healthy.

1. 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 active video games, select versions that require moving the body’s large muscle groups while playing.

2. Take a Snooze: Lack of sleep has been 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.

3. 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 (for example low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream) can make a recipe healthier without sacrificing taste.

4. Feeling the Pressure: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowering or maintaining normal blood pressure can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Nearly 1 in 3 adults (about 67 million people) has high blood pressure and more than half of them don’t have it under control. Get your blood pressure checked regularly and discuss the results with you doctor.

5. 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 or build a snow fort together in the yard or park.


The YMCA of Western North Carolina is one of the area’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. The Y serves Buncombe, Henderson and McDowell Counties with five Y centers, 21 elementary age afterschool sites and four 21st Century middle school age afterschool sites; engaging over 61,000 families, neighbors and children. Regardless of age, income or background our goal is to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the area’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support the community. Deeply anchored in Western North Carolina, the Y has a 125 year history that allows us to not just promise, but deliver lasting personal and social change. ymcawnc.org

About Lea McLellan
Lea McLellan is a freelance writer who likes to write stories about music, art, food, wellness and interesting locals doing interesting things.

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