In recognition of February as American Heart Month, the Americana YMCA urges Zachary residents to help prevent heart disease by lowering blood pressure rates, especially by monitoring your blood pressure and reducing sodium intake.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the nation’s No. 1 killer, responsible for 1 in 4 deaths each year in the United States. Additionally, 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure with less than half having it under control, a news release said.

The YMCA has committed 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.

The Americana YMCA is increasing the availability of the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program, which helps adults at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles. Type 2 diabetes is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Program participants work together in a small group to learn about eating healthier, increasing physical activity and making other behavioral changes with the goal of reducing body weight by 7 percent to reduce their risk for developing diabetes, a news release said. A trained lifestyle coach leads the program over a 12-month period beginning with 16 weekly sessions followed by monthly maintenance sessions.

The Y offers the following tips from the United States Department of Agriculture to help reduce sodium in your diet:

THINK FRESH: Most of the sodium Americans eat is found in processed foods. Eat highly processed foods less often and in smaller portions — especially cheesy foods, such as pizza; cured meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs and deli/luncheon meats; and ready-to-eat foods, like canned chili, ravioli and soups. Fresh foods are generally lower in sodium.

ENJOY HOME-PREPARED FOODS: Cook more often at home — where you are in control of what’s in your food. Preparing your own foods allows you to limit the amount of salt in them.

FILL UP ON VEGGIES AND FRUITS: Fresh or frozen, they are naturally low in sodium. Eat a vegetable or fruit at every meal.

ADJUST 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 substitute spices, herbs, garlic, vinegar or lemon juice to season foods.

BOOST YOUR POTASSIUM INTAKE: Choose foods with potassium, which may help to lower 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.