Mississippians are making progress in the fight against heart disease. But As MPB's Desare Frazier reports, there's still much work to be done.
The Mississippi Department of Health reports that between 2004 and 2013 the number of people who died from heart disease in the state declined nearly 20 percent. The greatest decrease is among black women. State Epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Dobbs says that good news, but Mississippi is still behind the nation in reducing heart disease. He says about 7,000 Mississippians die every year and its preventable.
"The drivers of heart disease are going to be multiple. Smoking certainly is a huge one and we have way too many smokers in Mississippi. Additionally, we're almost the last in the whole country for inactivity. Almost one-third of Mississippians get no physical activity in a month's time," said Dobbs.
Dobb says a steady diet of fried foods, hamburgers and sweets pushes up cholesterol levels contributes to heart disease and obesity. He recommends baking meats and eating fruits, vegetables. Dr. Myrna Alexander-Nickens at the University of Mississippi Medical Center says outreach efforts like those at churches and the American Cancer Society's "Go Red" program are having an impact. But she says 7.4 percent of Mississippians have heart disease, which includes high blood pressure, blood vessel blockages that lead to heart attacks and strokes.
"So there's more people in our nursing homes that have strokes. Strokes are the cause for most people not being able to return back to work. Having a stroke really changes your whole life, not only your life but the people that are caring for you as well," said Nickens.
Nickens encourages adults to teach their children to eat healthy foods and exercise. She says that's what it's going to take to change the high incidence of heart disease in Mississippi over time.