COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Heart disease is the leading cause of natural death in Georgia for both men and women. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health cardiovascular disease (CVD), claims the lives of more than 22,000 Georgians per year, earning the region the nickname “Southeast stroke belt of America” among medical professionals. 

CVD includes all diseases of the heart including hypertension, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Risk factors such as smoking, obesity, poor diet, and excessive alcohol use increase your chances of developing heart disease. 

Dr. Daryl Ellis a physician at Piedmont River Chase shared with WRBL what decreases your risk of CVD.

“Exercise helps prevent cardiovascular disease by conditioning the heart so that it functions more consistently and function more efficiently. And also, it helps to open up the blood vessels in the musculature and lower your blood pressure.” stated Dr. Ellis.

Adopting healthy dietary changes such as lowering sodium intake and increasing magnesium in your diet in order to smooth muscles in your blood vessels helps to bring down blood pressure and improve heart health.