Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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Feb. 18, 2004

February Is Healthy Heart Month

Heart disease is New York's number one killer, accounting for nearly one in three of all deaths in the state. During Healthy Heart Month in February, the Oswego County Health Department reminds you that taking steps for a healthier heart can reduce the tragically high toll of heart disease.

"The risk of heart disease is higher for those with a family history of the disease. The risk increases for everyone as they get older," said Kathleen Smith, Oswego County Commissioner of Health Services. "Everyone has an increased risk of heart disease due to physical inactivity, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and being overweight. It's important for women to remember that heart disease is not just a 'man's disease.' Heart disease takes the lives of more women than breast cancer."

People can greatly reduce the risk and severity of heart disease by making such simple lifestyle choices as engaging in physical activity, eating foods low in fat, avoiding tobacco and getting regular check-ups.

Smith said the Oswego County Health Department offers free hypertension, cholesterol and diabetic screenings twice a month at the Oswego and Pulaski public health clinics. Screenings are held the first Thursday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon at the Nick Sterio Public Health Clinic, 70 Bunner St., Oswego; and the third Wednesday of each month from 9 to 11 a.m. at the H. Douglas Barclay Courthouse, Broad Street, Pulaski.

Physical activity is an easy and enjoyable way to reduce your risk of heart disease. Physical activity helps strengthen your heart, control weight, lower high blood pressure and reduce cholesterol, which can block arteries. At the same time, physical activity provides many other benefits, including reducing stress and the risk of cancer.

The New York State Department of Health recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity, such as brisk walking, on most days of the week. You can fit physical activity into a busy schedule by breaking it up into smaller portions. At work, a lunchtime walk will improve your health and help you feel more refreshed in the afternoon. People can also reduce their risk of heart disease by following the recommendations of the State Health Department to eat five or more servings of vegetables and fruits every day. Choosing vegetables and fruits helps reduce cholesterol, control weight and reduce the risk of several types of cancer.

"When packing a lunch, grab a box of raisins, a banana, a handful of grapes, cherry tomatoes or carrot sticks," suggests Diane Oldenburg, public health educator for the Oswego County Health Department. "At any time, a piece of fruit or crispy vegetable makes a healthier snack than chips or candy, which contain saturated fat. Drink one percent or fat-free milk, rather than whole milk, and 100 percent fruit juice, water or unsweetened ice tea, rather than soft drinks."

Smokers are twice as likely to have a heart attack as nonsmokers. On the first day you stop smoking you begin to reduce your risk of heart disease, as carbon monoxide is removed from your blood and the oxygen level increases. Within one year, your risk of a heart attack is cut in half.

The State Health Department offers help to quit smoking through the toll-free Smokers' Quitline at 1-866-NYQUITS (697-8487) or www.nysmokefree.com.

High blood pressure increases the heart's workload, causing it to enlarge and weaken. Talk to your health care provider about the need for a blood pressure test. If you have high blood pressure, follow your health care provider's advice to control it.

To learn more about how to protect yourself from heart disease, call the Oswego County Health Department at 349-3547 or 1-800-596-3200, ext. 3547.

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