PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Thousands walked the beach route in Pascagoula Saturday morning to raise awareness for heart disease. It's not a race clocked by time: participants go at their own pace.
It's hard to find someone who doesn't have a personal connection to the cause. Heart disease is the leading cause of death, even more so than cancer.
"Heart health is really critical for their long-term quality of life," said Dr. Jason Williams, Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Singing River Health System. "The healthier your heart is the healthier, you're going to be."
Dr. Williams has worked as a surgeon for 16 years. He said heart health is rather simple. Eat a healthy diet, and sweat every day.
"The main risk factors for heart disease are diabetes and smoking," he said. "So, if we can get more people to stop smoking, and if we can get people healthier, and help them either to prevent diabetes or control diabetes, those are really two of the main ways we can keep all of hearts strong."
Participant Israel Harper understands the importance of keeping a healthy heart. He's walking for his dad.
"He was diagnosed probably 20-30 years ago with CHF [congestive heart failure], and over the years it just progressed. Last year it got him," he said.
But Israel has also overcome his own battles. About a year ago he chose to shed some pounds. Now he walks, with thousands of others to bring awareness to heart disease.
"To get the awareness out in Jackson County is what we're here for," Israel said.
Organizers say about 2,000 people registered for Saturday's walk.