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Oklahoma County seeks participants to improve heart health

Oklahoma City — The Oklahoma City-County Health Department is seeking more people at risk of heart disease who are interested in lifestyle changes.

The MyHeart program started about five years ago in the ZIP codes where residents had the worst health outcomes. Now, residents ages 20 to 64 anywhere in the county can participate if they have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Risk factors include high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol or high blood sugar.

Participants receive relevant medications, such as statins or antihypertensive drugs, for one year. During that year, they also regularly work with a community health worker, who acts as an “advocate” for the client by connecting them to affordable resources for health care, food and other basic needs, said Megan Holderness, administrator of epidemiology at the city-county department.

About 7,000 Oklahoma County residents died of cardiovascular disease between 2013 and 2015, the most recent years with complete data. That shows a substantial unmet need for heart-focused care, Holderness said.

The 542 people who participated in the program from 2014 to 2016 decreased their total cholesterol by about 7 percent, their blood sugar by about 6 percent and their blood pressure by more than 10 percent. About 5 percent of participants also quit smoking. It's too early to know if the program will have a long-term effect on participants' health, but they used the emergency room less often while in the program.

Clients may have heard basic information about how to care for their hearts, but not have a clear picture of how to eat a healthy diet or quit smoking, Holderness said. About two-thirds say at their initial assessment that they think their health is fair or poor, she said.

“More often than not, they don't know where to start with the process,” she said. “They recognize they need to improve their health, and their taking the first step to do that.”

By the end of the year, patients should be connected to a primary care doctor and able to sustain healthy habits, Holderness said.

“The goal is that after the year ... the client has learned the tools to take care of their health,” she said.

For more information or to sign up, go online to or call call 419-4049

Meg Wingerter

Meg Wingerter has covered health at The Oklahoman since July 2017. Previously, she lived in Topeka, Kansas, and worked at Kansas News Service and The Topeka Capital-Journal, where she earned awards for business coverage. She graduated from... Read more ›