By Nicole Long, MSW, LICSW

February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about heart disease and focus on heart health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Knowing your family health history and the risk factors for heart disease, making heart-healthy choices, having regular check-ups, and working with your physician to manage your health are all ways that can help prevent heart disease.

In the U.S., the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease. Essentially, plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries, which causes them to narrow over time. This affects the blood flow to the heart and can lead to a heart attack. According to the CDC, key risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and smoking. Other conditions or behaviors that may affect the risk for heart disease include diabetes, obesity, physical inactivity, and an unhealthy diet.

A healthy lifestyle goes a long way to preventing heart disease:

Stay active. Get moving for at least 150 minutes per week. Consider incorporating physical activity such as walking or cycling for 30 minutes a day into your routine. You could even break up the 30 minutes into 10-minute blocks over the course of a day.

Manage conditions. If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or other conditions such as diabetes, it is important that you work with your health care team to manage these conditions.

Eat healthy. An unhealthy diet high in sodium can put you at risk for high blood pressure. A diet high in saturated fat can contribute to high cholesterol. Both increase the risk for heart disease. Good nutrition counts. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are among the healthy food choices recommended.

Did you know? Old Colony Elder Services’ (OCES) Nutrition Program provides older adults with nutritionally sound and satisfying meals. OCES’ Community Dining sites provide hot, nutritious meals to adults age 60+. Meals are planned by a nutritionist and meet one-third of the Recommended Daily Allowance for major nutrients. The meals do not include high sodium foods and no salt is added. Older adults who are unable to attend a Community Dining site, or who are unable to prepare nutritious meals at home may benefit from receiving home-delivered meals through Meals on Wheels (MOW). These meals are also planned by a Registered Dietitian. Therapeutic meals are available including chopped, ground, pureed, renal, low lactose and cardiac types for individuals requiring special diets.

Another lifestyle change that can help you control your heart health? If you smoke, programs are available to help you quit.

Even making small changes in your habits can make a difference. For example, starting out small with 10 minutes a day of physical activity.  It is never too late to make healthy lifestyle changes. 

About the Author

Nicole Long is the Chief Executive Officer of Old Colony Elder Services (OCES).  Founded in 1974, OCES is a private, non-profit organization proudly serving Greater Plymouth County and surrounding communities. OCES is designated as one of 23 Aging Services Access Points (ASAPs) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. OCES’ mission is to support the independence and dignity of older adults and individuals with disabilities by providing essential information and services that promote healthy and safe living. The agency offers several programs to serve older adults, individuals with disabilities, their families, and caregivers. For more information visit


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

American Heart Association,