The situation is alarming, but there is good news - heart disease is preventable and controllable. We can start by taking small steps every day to bring our loved ones and ourselves closer to heart health. As you begin your journey to better health, keep these things in mind:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables – adults should have at least 5 serving each day. Eating foods low in saturated fat and low in cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet can also lower your blood pressure. Current dietary guidelines for adults suggest limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day, which equals one teaspoon. Remember this amount includes the salt that is already in many of the foods you consume.
  • Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis. You can check your blood pressure at home, at a pharmacy, or at the doctor’s office.  A normal blood pressure usually reads 120/80 or less.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person's excess body fat. If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI.
  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. About 130,000 cardiovascular disease deaths per year in the United States are attributable to smoking. Also, approximately 26% of heart attacks and 12–19% of strokes are attributable to smoking. So, if you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease.
  • Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day, and women no more than one.
  • Have your cholesterol checked. You should test your cholesterol levels at least once every five years. A normal total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or less.
  • Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and talk to your doctor about treatment options.
  • Take your medicine. If you’re taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Always ask if you don’t understand something.

In honor of February being National Heart Month, give your heart a special Valentine and get checked for high cholesterol. The Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) is offering a “Heart” month special on the morning’s of February 13 - 15 of a Lipid Panel and Comprehensive Metabolic Panel for $25 (regularly $40).  (These tests require a 10 hour fast, but it is recommended to drink plenty of water prior to the screening.)

Cholesterol Screening Clinic (walk-in, no appointment necessary)
 Heartland Community Church - 1280 South Alpine Road, Rockford, Illinois  61108
Thursday February 13, 2014: 8 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Friday February 14, 2014: 8 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.
Saturday February 15, 2014: 8 a.m. - 12 noon

As you begin your journey, don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed. You may not be able to take all of the steps at one time, but every step you do take, brings you closer to a healthier heart. The journey is more fun when you have company. Ask friends and family to join you. Make today the day you begin taking steps toward a healthier heart.   For more information on the heart disease and the cholesterol screening clinic, please call the Winnebago County Health Department’s Health Promotion office at 815-720-4264, or visit the WCHD website at


*Lipid Panel: The Lipid Panel tests the cholesterol components (Total cholesterol, HDL (good cholesterol), LDL (bad cholesterol), triglycerides, and a risk ratio. 

*Complete Metabolic Panel (CMP):  The CMP test looks at your glucose (blood sugar), some kidney functions, some liver functions, some electrolytes, as well as blood proteins.