The Village of Oak Park | 123 Madison St.  Oak Park, IL 60302 |

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Many ways to focus on heart health

Feb. 14, 2024 - February is American Heart Month, and the Oak Park Public Health Department is spotlighting ways to maintain a healthy heart.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but you can take steps to reduce your risk of heart disease. One way to increase heart health is to maintain regular physical activity.

You can walk and chat with a public health nurse for free, as well as get a blood pressure check, at the Park District of Oak Park's Community Recreation Center at 229 Madison St. from 10 a.m. to noon on Wed., Feb. 21 and Sat., March 16.

For more information, contact the Public Health Department at 708.358.5480 or Community members are also invited to make a request to the Public Health Department to give a presentation to your organization about ways to prevent heart disease.

Heart healthy tips:

  • Quit smoking. It’s hard to do but this one thing will make a big difference in your long-term health and wellbeing. Nicotine is highly addictive and craving or urges can be strong. Click here for some suggestions for standing up to the cravings and, eventually, kicking the habit from the Mayo Clinic.
  • Move your body. Daily physical activity is best but many of us have busy lives and stressors that keep us from moving like we should. Start by looking for little moments when you can have an exercise “snack.” If you only have 10 minutes, take a short walk or take a moment to stretch. Finding a couple 10-minute moments in your day, can add up to 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day. These breaks can also be your self-care and can help you feel calmer and happier, which is also good for your heart.
  • Eat healthier. Like exercise, making healthy food choices can seem like a chore, but making a small change here and there can put you on a path toward a healthier heart. Get started by committing to little changes, like picking the restaurant that offers a side salad or fruit to substitute for fries. At the grocery store, grab a bag of ready-to-eat produce like baby carrots or mandarin oranges and challenge yourself to reach for them throughout the week, instead of the tempting sugary or salty treat. You can try a new heart-healthy recipe each week. Ask friends and family to share their favorite low-sodium or healthy recipe with you, or look up even more recipes at
  • Prioritize sleep. People who don't get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression. With all of the responsibilities most of us juggle, getting the recommended seven hours of sleep each night can be tricky. There might not be enough hours in the day to get everything done, but getting enough sleep is just as important as some of those late-night chores. Choose a couple things you can do each night to signal to your brain that it’s time to slow down. Dim the lights, drink some herbal tea, play some relaxing music, read a book – whatever works for you. If you carve out the time but you still can’t sleep, it might be worth having a conversation with your doctor. Speaking of your doctor . . .
  • Get your yearly check-ups. A few medical conditions, left untreated, can be damaging to your heart. As we age, we are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, some infections, like gum disease can lead to heart problems, and some illnesses like COVID-19 and influenza can worsen existing heart problems. It’s important to keep those annual doctor and dental appointments and get your regular health screening tests and vaccines.