Cardiologists at Geisinger Health System say that's due to a combination of genetics and lifestyle. One doctor who's studied the data says you'll find those risk factors for heart disease linked across Pennsylvania.
Dr. Michael Lesko, a cardiologist at Geisinger says, " there is a swath that they can genetically link from Eastern European heritage that came down through the northeast of Pennsylvania through Central Pa to work in the coal mines."
According to Dr. Lesko, Geisinger medical records suggest that immigrants shared a genetic abnormality linked to high cholesterol and their culture intensified the risk.
He says, "part of it is the genetics and part of it is the culture, with the food they brought from Eastern Europe. It's high in fat and cholesterol, so that all predisposes you to heart disease, that and unfortunately, cigarette smoking, which is still prevalent in rural areas of Pennsylvania."
While state residents can't change their genetics, diet, exercise and medications can reduce high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other risk factors.
Dr. Lesko adds, "if you have a family history of heart disease, you know you have to be double vigilant to make sure you're on the right path."