Avoiding Heart Disease - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Avoiding Heart Disease

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The walking trail on Albany's south side is a good place for an afternoon stroll on a nice day. The walking trail on Albany's south side is a good place for an afternoon stroll on a nice day.
The menu board at the McDonalds on North Slappey in Albany.  Fast food restaurants are offering healthier selections. The menu board at the McDonalds on North Slappey in Albany. Fast food restaurants are offering healthier selections.
The emergency entrance sign at Phoebe North Hospital in Albany.  Thousands of patients go to emergency rooms each year - victims of heart disease. The emergency entrance sign at Phoebe North Hospital in Albany. Thousands of patients go to emergency rooms each year - victims of heart disease.
When you don't want to take that daily walk sometimes having a friend with you can help, as was the case here at Lake Loretta. When you don't want to take that daily walk sometimes having a friend with you can help, as was the case here at Lake Loretta.
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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

According to the Georgia Department of Human Services, around 22,000 Georgians die from cardiovascular disease each year.  That's equal to the entire population of Tifton.

February is Heart Awareness Month and the push is on to reduce the rates of death from heart disease.

The statistics are startling and it's not just Georgia.

Dr. Steven Wolinsky, a Cardiologist at Phoebe Cardiology Associates said, "heart disease is the number one killer of Americans both men and women."

But the problem is worse in our part of the country.

"Heart disease in the South is very prevalent.  Men, women and it could be the deep fried foods that we love and tend to cherish so much," said Sue Ewing from the Dougherty County Health Department.

It's not just the fried chicken.  Smoking is another significant cause of heart disease.  There's one thing that the two have in common - choices.

"We can also choose to do something about smoking.  We can choose or not choose to do that," said Ewing.

Heart disease often leads to heart attacks.  The symptoms of a heart attack aren't always obvious and delay in treatment can lead to death.

So when should you rush to the emergency room?

"If you have chest pain that's in the center of the chest, sometimes it may radiate to the arm, neck or jaw, if it's associated with shortness of breath or sweating," said Dr. Wolinsky.

But just because you live in the South doesn't mean that you doomed to die early.

Certainly for some people their genetic makeup makes them more likely to get heart disease, but for most of us there are a few simple steps that you can take to avoid the problem.  A few thousand simple steps.

When it comes to outdoor exercise, living here can actually work in your favor.  It's a lot easier to take a walk in south Georgia this time of year than, say, Minneapolis.  For days when you lack the motivation, it's always good to have a friend.

Ewing said, "you can call that friend and that friend can come over and encourage you or even walk with you."

Americans are trying to get healthy, even fast food chains are putting healthier options on their menus.  And health professionals we talked to have noticed.

"I think people innately want to be healthy," said Ewing.

The numbers seem to show the effects of living a little better and also the efforts of medical professionals nationwide.

Dr. Wolinsky said, "over the last 10 years, we've seen a 20 to 30 per cent reduction in the number of heart attacks in this country."

If Americans do begin to live healthier then heart disease rates - and the health costs that we all pay - will go down in the years ahead.

Ewing recommends that if you're cooking at home you should use seasonings other than salt if possible and to consider baking instead of frying.  As always if you're planning to start an exercise program, you should talk to a doctor first.

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