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Heart-Healthy Practices for Rural Living

Keep your heart healthy with these tips

While most U.S. citizens live in big cities and their surrounding suburbs, about 20% of Americans live in rural parts of the country. With more space, smaller populations and scenic landscapes, rural living provides a lifestyle that urban areas can’t. Though there are many benefits to rural living, there are also challenges, including being more prone to chronic heart problems.

February is American Heart Month, a time for us to focus on our cardiovascular health and learn how to avoid the No. 1 fatal health risk faced by Americans: heart disease. As your local electric co-op, MidSouth wants to address potential risks and practices to help you stay heart healthy.

The primary factor affecting the heart health of rural populations is proximity to resources. Being geographically remote often means inconvenient access to goods and services like medical care and fresh food.

For example, many of our rural communities rely on smaller convenience stores or dollar stores for their groceries. These vendors usually lack fresh fruits and vegetables and sell more processed, packaged foods high in salt, sugar and fat.

Scarcity of local health care options often serves as an obstacle to avoiding heart disease. Doctors and pharmacies are more readily accessible in urban areas, making transportation an issue when services are needed. Statistics show our neighbors in larger towns and cities are more likely to visit a physician and remain consistent with prescribed medications simply due to convenience.

Rural MidSouth EC members who are diligent with check-ups and medications are still at a disadvantage when a medical emergency arises. In the event of a heart attack, it could take longer for an ambulance to arrive, and travel to the nearest hospital may prolong needed attention.

If you find yourself in this category, there are many ways to address these challenges and take control of your health. Here are several:

1. Identify your health needs and potential obstacles you face. Is it transportation? Distance? Availability?

2. Be intentional about what you eat. If fresh produce is difficult to obtain locally, frozen vegetables and fruit are a great alternative.

3. Utilize telehealth for routine doctor visits, where you can speak with a physician over the phone or online, saving time and money.

4. Take advantage of mail-order pharmacies to get the prescriptions you need delivered right to your house.

5. Learn to recognize the signs of chronic heart conditions, strokes and heart attacks. The earlier you recognize symptoms, the quicker you will receive proper care. Visit for a list of symptoms related to these conditions.