Natural cause and effect

Published 9:52 pm Saturday, June 22, 2013

This week, the actor who played one of America’s most-beloved television characters, James Gandolfini, the Godfather of the hit series “The Sopranos,” died of a heart attack.

Gandolfini’s autopsy report declared he died of natural causes. But the report begs the question: what’s so natural about a person dropping dead of heart attack at the age of 51?

In the U.S., approximately 600,000 people die every year from heart disease; 385,000 of those from coronary heart disease. According to the Beaufort County Health Department, heart disease is one of the major health concerns affecting county residents. Coronary heart disease on its own costs the U.S. $108.9 billion each year in health care services, medications and lost productivity. And the further South and East one travels on the map of the U.S., the higher the rates of the disease.

It’s well known that high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and smoking are risk factors associated with heart disease — almost half of Americans have at least one of those risk factors.

But there are others.

The further South and East one travels on the same map, the higher the rates of obesity, as well. Physical inactivity and poor diet can be a lethal combination for many people. That’s why the Centers of Disease Control recommend a healthy diet and taking a brisk 10-minute walk, three times a day, five days a week.

A healthy diet is one low in salt and total fat, rich is fresh fruits and vegetables. Ten minutes at a time, three times a day. It’s not such a sacrifice of time or energy in the measurement of hours in a day. If taking a walk every day lowers our chances of sudden loss of life, then we should all be out walking and bringing our friends, our neighbors, our family members along with us.

We have sidewalks in our historic towns. We have country roads that are rarely traveled. In Washington, we have a cemetery that makes for a fine walk and a waterfront that was made for the walkers.

We have the knowledge and the resources. All that’s left is the choice — for living.