Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Heart disease is the number one killer in South Carolina accounting for over 10,000 deaths and over 50,000 hospitalizations in 2015. The costs exceed $3 billion.

Anil Yallapragrada M.D. is a vascular neurologist and Medical Director of the Stroke Center at Palmetto Health Richland in Columbia.

He said many issues, including heart disease, start with obesity. Stroke, diabetes and heart attack all start and end with being overweight, smoking, not enough exercise, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

"It (obesity) can lead you to have diabetes. It can lead you to have high blood pressure. It can lead you to have high cholesterol, so those things tear the blood vessels inside your body. From the time we're born to the time we are very old blood is pumping through our heart and through our blood vessels and at the age of ten years old we start to develop some changes in the lining of blood vessels in the normal individual, but when you start to put these things into your body where they are not supposed to be at the levels that they're not supposed to start to accelerate that process, that wear and tear on the blood vessels, so the organs that are supplied throughout your body start to die off," he said.

Yallapragrada also has some tips on how you can live a happier, healthier life.

"The first thing I would say is to increase the consumption of vegetables and fruits and cut back on the fried foods. We have a big problem in South Carolina, which is one of the reasons that we are leading the county. We're known as the buckle of the stroke belt because of our consumption of fried foods. We eat a lot of french fries, fried chicken, fried fish and when you fry things and when you combine all of these toxins together, you really have a recipe for disaster," he said. "The other thing I would say is get a primary doctor. Get yourself checked out because you may have high blood pressure and not even know it."

He also said that exercising and quitting smoking will greatly lower your risk of obesity.

For more information you can email Yallapragada at