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STAFF PHOTO/C.J. MARSHALL Mary Reeves, left, gives a sample of dark chocolate to Kathy Gooch of Tunkhannock. Reeves explained that dark chocolate in moderation can be good for the heart.

February is American Heart Month, and Mary Reeves was on hand at the Falls Active Adult Center on Thursday, providing information on steps people can take to maintain a healthy heart.

Reeves, Admissions Director at the Gardens, gave 28 tips on proper heart care. The first and most important, Reeves explained, is don’t smoke.

“Smoking is one of the top controllable risk factors for heart disease,” according to information Reeves providing during her presentation. “If you smoke or use other tobacco products, the American Heart Association encourages you to quit.”

Belly fat is another big factor linked to heart disease, Reeves explained. People who eat less and slim down significantly reduce their risk of heart disease.

One suggestion that met with a great deal of enthusiasm was having sex.

“Sexual activity may add more than just pleasure to your life,” the information stated. “It may also help lower your blood pressure and risk of heart disease.”

Eating foods rich in fiber is another way to help your heart, Reeves said.

“Have oatmeal for breakfast,” she said. “Or eat apples, pears or avocados.”

Another good food source is fish.

“It’s such a good source of protein,” Reeves said.

Not all fish is the same - but Reeves recommended salmon, haddock and tuna. When it was pointed out that many stopped eating tuna several years ago - due to concerns about mercury - Reeves said she believes it is no longer a problem.

Listening to music can be an effective method of staying healthy.

“Let the music move you,” Reeves said. “It calms you down and makes us happy.”

Drinking wine - in moderation - is a good way to raise the levels of good cholesterol. It can also help prevent blood clot formation and artery damage. Reeves recommended, however, that people consult with their physician to determine the proper amount to consume.

“Laugh out loud,” Reeves said. “Whether you like watching funny movies or cracking jokes with your friends, laughter may be good for your heart.”

Reducing salt intake is another recommendation, Reeves explained. Try not to cook with salt, or reduce the amount used.

“Notch your housework up some,” she said about increased activities. “If you sweep the floor, do it real slow and do it three times. Put some music on while you’re doing it.”

Exercise is strongly recommended. Reeves said that when walking a treadmill, riding a bike, or other similar exercises, it is best to alternate by starting slow, speeding up for about 30 seconds, then slowing down again. This method gets the heart working and makes you feel good.

In a related matter, keeping moving is also a good idea.

“Couch potato and desk jockey lifestyles seem to have an unhealthy effect on blood fats and blood sugar,” Reeves explained. “If you work at a desk, remember to take regular breaks to move around.”

Owning a pet can be great therapy. The Gardens has a program in which five dogs are brought in on a regular basis.

“Once a month,” Reeves said, “residents come out to see the pups. It’s a match made in heaven.”

Another popular suggestion was chocolate. Like wine, it should be consumed in moderation, but studies have shown chocolate can be good for the heart. Dark chocolate - the bitter kind - is best, Reeves said. Milk chocolate and others with high sugar content are not recommended.