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I'm lowering my risk ... you can too!

Click here for stories and tips from 55 other West Virginians

See a related story here.


CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Yes, West Virginia leads the nation in diabetes and heart disease, but -- as Karen Thaxton, wellness director for the city of Charleston, said -- "We don't have to stay there."

Want to get in shape in 2012? Lower that blood pressure or cholesterol? Have more energy every day? Chase away depression? Prevent heart problems and diabetes?

Here are a bunch of your fellow West Virginians -- ages 6 months to 83 -- saying, "Go for it!"

"Exercise regularly and you lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, asthma, cancers -- all kinds of things you don't want," said Sam Zizzi, professor of sports and exercise psychology at West Virginia University.

Even 30 minutes a day, research shows, lowers your risk. "It doesn't have to be in a gym. Walk, swim, climb the hill or stairs, anything that gets your heart rate up," he said.

"No matter how many of your relatives have type 2 diabetes, you can absolutely prevent it," agreed Gina Wood, manager of the state diabetes prevention program.

"Maybe we can bring West Virginia's bad numbers down, one person at a time," said Charleston novelist Denise Giardina, who started swimming after she had a stroke. "Make it happen, one by one, two by two."

What does research say? Watch "23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?"

This report was produced under a Dennis A. Hunt fellowship for health journalism, administered by the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and with help from the West Virginia University Extension Service.

Reach Kate Long at or 304-348-1798.

In 2012, the Sunday Gazette-Mail and The Charleston Gazette will look closely at West Virginia's soaring chronic disease numbers. Why are they so high? Who's trying to bring them down? We'll visit programs, places and people and give you a chance to be part of the conversation. It's "The Shape We're In," in the Sunday Gazette-Mail and The Charleston Gazette.










































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