Heart disease ranks high here

Published 2:00 pm Friday, February 4, 2011

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in SouthwestGeorgia, but the population it preys on most are African Americans, Southwest Public Health District Director Jacqueline Grant says.

“Georgia has one of the highest death rates of cardiovascular disease in the United States, roughly 9 percent higher than the national rate,” said Grant. “However, it is in our power to do something about that. February—American Heart Month—is a good time to emphasize that message.”

She stressed that while African Americans are at greatest risk of death from stroke and heart attack, they also stand to gain the most benefits from making lifestyle changes like losing weight, exercising regularly and getting their blood pressure under control.

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“In general, the heart disease death rate has been consistently higher in the African-American population than in the white population,” Grant said. “Cardiovascular death rates were 1.3 times higher for blacks than whites in Georgia in 2007 (the most recent data available), while stroke deaths were 1.5 times higher.”

Grant said the first step is to learn the seven modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease: Smoking, lack of physical activity, poor eating habits, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Cardiovascular disease includes stroke, hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart attacks and diseases of the heart and blood vessels.

Everyone regardless of age, gender, race or socioeconomic background can adopt healthy behaviors, said Grant.

“Making changes in your behavior can reduce your risk significantly and allow you to live a healthier life,” Grant said. “Programs such as our Hooked on Health program can help.”

The Hooked on Health interactive program focuses on five categories of wellness behavior: being active, being positive, maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding tobacco products and getting check-ups.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or how much money you have, because programs like Hooked on Health are available at no cost,” Grant said. “You don’t have to make big lifestyle changes all at once to see results. Even small changes in your behavior can improve your life and reduce your risk.”

For more information about heart disease or Hooked on Health, contact your local county health department or go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.

Carolyn Maschke is a risk communications/public information officer with the Georgia Health District 8, Unit 2 in Albany, Ga. She can be reached by calling (229) 430-1969 or e-mailing her at cwmaschke@dhr.state.ga.us.