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      RGV Residents at Greater Risk for Heart Disease due to Obesity

      It keeps your blood pumping everyday; your heart is the most important organ you have. But if you live in the Rio Grande Valley, the chance you'll have a heart attack has grown in recent years.

      We are beginning to see heart disease in the younger set. I have taken care of people in their 20's and 30's with heart attacks," says Dr. Usman Sheriff.

      He is a cardiologist with the Valley Baptist Health System in Harlingen. Dr. Sheriff says, it all starts with heart disease which is becoming more prevalent. A number of factors contribute to the increase, primarily obesity. The RGV leads the country for the third year in a row with the highest prevalence of the disease.

      Dr. Sheriff says a number of things contribute to obesity, including, "Dietary factors. The food in the valley is good. We tend to eat. We don't know what is right. Approximately 35-40% of Valley residents are considered obese. Among them, cholesterol, blood pressure, and high sugar, run rampant. They TMre factors that contribute to the risk of heart disease.

      Dr. Sheriff stresses, symptoms manifest themselves differently.

      More commonly we have patients complain doc, I can't walk, and I TMm short winded. Doc when I walk I get a dull aching, sensation in my chest. Doc I feel weak, I can't function," he says. Ultimately prevention with a change in lifestyle is the best way to stop heart disease, before it's too late. Dr. Sheriff says these four simple tests can help.

      "Take time to see what our blood pressure is to see what sugar is. Number is to check your blood cholesterol and number 4 is waist circumference," he says.