As Americans, we are constantly flooded with messages about improving our health. Estimated to be worth almost 70 billion dollars, the weight loss industry continues to be one of the most profitable markets in America.

Most of us have one or more friends on Facebook who sells or markets the latest workout program or the newest healthy supplement. While losing weight and getting healthy are great things, sometimes it’s easier to concentrate on the outside, tangible benefits rather than the internal health benefits.

We also all probably know one person who has been affected by a heart-related health problem. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease. And heart disease doesn’t just happen to older adults.

Conditions that lead to heart disease are starting to happen at younger ages, putting all of us at risk. February is American Heart Month. American Heart Month is designed to bring awareness about heart disease and to shed light on ways that the disease can be prevented, both on an individual and community level.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, half of all Americans have one of the top three risk factors for heart disease. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Other conditions that can increase your risk for heart disease include obesity, diabetes, lack of physical activity, and unhealthy eating patterns.

Tackling such a giant health problem can seem very daunting. But fortunately, heart disease can be prevented by making healthy choices and sustainable lifestyle changes. However, this is very hard to do alone. The American Heart Association encourages communities, work places, and families to work together to create cultural change. Healthier choices are easier and more sustainable when they are made together rather than in isolation.

Small, easy changes are the best way to start taking care of your heart! Some examples include:

• Experimenting with spices and marinades instead of adding a lot of salt to your food

• Making physical activity a part of your work day. Try to get up and move each hour!

• Finding small ways to manage stress, such as breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga

• Going on a walk with your family at least once per week

• Finding ways to be active with other members of your community, such as a group fitness class at the Colvin or participating in a local 5K

• Calling the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline to learn about the resources and help that you can receive to quit smoking

• Trying to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits

All of these things are easier to do with the support of people that you love. Talk to your family, colleagues, or community about one change that you can make this month to help take care of your heart.

Sarah Gold is a TSET Healthy Living Program Specialist.