Improving heart health may be easier than you think

Across the United States, the month of February is recognized as National Heart Month. It is a time when many organizations, including Southern Ohio Medical Center, seek to shine a spotlight on the keys to a healthy heart and why it’s so important.

Some factors that put you at risk are unavoidable. For example, you can’t help but grow older. There are, however, many changes you can implement today to improve your health.

If you smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health as it has been closely linked to heart disease (and a host of other diseases). SOMC can even help you drop the habit through free smoking cessation classes.

Your blood pressure and cholesterol also play major factors in your heart’s health. High blood pressure makes the heart work harder than normal. Cholesterol, meanwhile, can clog your arteries and raise your risk of a heart attack. Adopting a healthy diet and increasing physical activity can control both of these factors.

While losing weight will help, it is healthier to lose it slowly. Crash diets, very-low calorie diets, cleansings and fasts have all been shown to weaken the immune system and damage heart muscles. This will actually increase the threat of developing heart disease.

Aside from replacing bad habits with good diet and exercise, there are other ways – some you may not have considered – to improve your heart health.

Adopting a pet, for example, can help reduce stress and lower blood pressure. If you happen to have a dog, it can also make a great exercise buddy! Drinking green tea can also help by improving blood vessel function, and eating a small amount of dark chocolate can reduce the inflammation that leads to cardiovascular disease. Practicing good dental hygiene is also important as there is a correlation between gum disease and heart problems. Other changes, like limiting your intake of sodium, can also help.

Although it may seem overwhelming, it does not need to be. SOMC is here to help – and will even provide a registered dietitian to help you pick out healthy foods during your next trip to Kroger, free of charge!

For more information about SOMC’s Heart Smart Cart shopping program, call 740-356-8649. To sign up for one of SOMC’s free smoking cessation classes, call 740-356-2552. Additional information can also be found at www.somc.org.