Y Member Praises Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program After Life-Saving Outcome: “I Was In The Danger Zone."
About 9 out of 10 Americans will develop high blood pressure during their life, according to the CDC. And if not addressed early on, it can lead to heart disease and/or stroke. In 2020, hypertension was the cause or contributing factor of death for more than 670,000 people in the U.S.
In light of American Heart Health Month, the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas wants to help you better understand ways to support a healthy heart, including known risk factors, your blood pressure numbers, and how Y team members can help you along the way.
Common Risk Factors
- A diet high in sodium - too much salt in foods or drinks can raise blood pressure
- A diet low in potassium - without this, your body has a hard time offsetting the effects of sodium and can’t contract your muscles (like your heart) or nerves properly
- Low physical activity/Inactivity - causes weaker blood vessels
- Excess alcohol - raises blood pressure
- Smoking - damages the heart and blood vessels, and reduces the amount of oxygen your blood carries
To learn more, Texas Health Resources has provided a Heart Health Assessment as the first step to identifying your heart risk. While several other contributing factors can increase your chances of heart disease such as age and genetics, you should always speak to your doctor about what testing is available.
Know Your Numbers
Shirley Lilly joined the Blood Pressure Self-Monitoring Program (BPSM) last fall, she was looking for some guidance from Healthy Heart Ambassadors on how she can get her blood pressure under control.
The four-month program focuses on regulated home self-monitoring of one’s blood pressure every two weeks using proper measuring techniques, individualized support and monthly nutrition education seminars. It also includes two personalized consultations per month.
On one particular day, Lilly learned of news she would never forget.
“I found out my blood pressure was in the danger zone. It was 179/89 then 202/102. I went to the emergency room and had my medication modified after attending office hours with the program. If it had not been for the checking of my blood pressure and being sent home with a BP machine, my outcome could have been very different,” Lilly said.
Tracey Burns, Director of Healthy Lifestyles, believes this information potentially saved Shirley from a heart attack.
“I’m just so grateful that this helped her catch it in time. This is why we have these programs in place, to provide our members and community with the tools and resources they need to lead healthier lives,” said Burns.
And Shirley isn’t the only one the BPSM has helped. Dora Martinez and her husband joined Cross Timbers Family in 1990, the couple spent years working out and staying active, but it wasn’t until the Spring of 2022 that the couple met Shannon Maher, YMCA Healthy Heart Ambassador, who introduced them to BPSM.
“My medical doctor said I needed to lower my blood pressure,” said Martinez. “We took part in active older adults classes including aerobics, weightlifting, cardio, and walking at the gym five
days a week. Shannon informs, advises, encourages, and motivates each member. She supports and influences us all to eat wisely and work towards a healthier lifestyle. I take blood pressure
readings almost daily and work hard to improve my blood pressure readings.”
In addition, Martinez says the program also helped her better understand reading and studying food labels.
“I’m convinced I can reach my goal,” shared Martinez. “ My doctor is pleasantly impressed with my enthusiasm and improvement.”
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Create An Action Plan to Prevent Heart Disease
Knowing and understanding your blood pressure numbers is a proactive step that can lead to a healthier heart. But there are additional ways to ensure you’re setting yourself up for success.
- Move daily - Aim to get at least 30 minutes of cardio or vigorous activity 5x a week.
- Control your blood sugar - work closely with your doctor to find out what’s right for you.
- Control cholesterol levels - be mindful of your fat intake and make adjustments as needed (For example: cook with less oil, eat half an avocado rather than a whole).
- Eliminate Smoking - speak to your doctor about ways you can reduce smoking that can eventually lead to quitting. Texas Health Resources says, “If you smoke, you are twice as likely to have a heart attack [and] four times more likely to die of heart disease.”
Source: Texas Health Resources
To learn more about community programs that support heart health, check out a program close to you: www.ymcadallas.org/communityhealth!