The only one you’ve got

Published 9:21 pm Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The No. 1 killer in America isn’t guns. It’s not car crashes. It’s not diabetes. And it’s not even cancer, though that condition runs a close second.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the No. 1 cause of death in the United States is heart disease. About 600,000 people die of heart disease every year, accounting for one in every four deaths, according to the CDC. It’s the leading cause of death for men and women and for blacks, whites and Hispanics, and folks who live in the South are especially prone to it.

The American Heart Association works hard to raise awareness of the dangers and signs of heart disease and the ways to reduce the likelihood of experiencing it. On Saturday in Suffolk, more than 200 people participated in a fundraising event, HeartChase, designed to show people how to keep their hearts healthy while raising money to support the research and outreach efforts of the heart association.

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Participants competed in a race with checkpoints spread out along a portion of Godwin Boulevard. At each checkpoint they were required to complete an activity that taught them facts about heart disease or taught them activities that could help them avoid it.

It was a great educational opportunity, but you don’t have to take part in an event like HeartChase to do something good for your ticker. High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and smoking are among the key risk factors for heart disease, according to the CDC, and those each of us has some control over each of those risk factors.

Eat a healthy diet that is low in salt; low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; and rich in fresh fruits and vegetables. Exercise regularly: The CDC suggests a brisk walk, three times a day and five days a week. Follow your doctors’ advice regarding medications. And stop smoking.

Taking those steps will not completely remove any chance of heart disease, but they will make a huge difference to your heart and reduce the likelihood of problems.

Protect your heart. It’s the only one you’ve got.