I need to speak to the women for a minute. I love and admire African-American sisters to death, as I am the product of one of the strongest and most beautiful African-American woman in this world. Without my mother, there would be no Hip Hop Doc. She is the living example of what I think women should mature to be and thank goodness she is healthy at the young age of 73. Black History Month is a perfect time to recognize and support the ladies as they continue to carry the torch and make positive strides in all facets of life. But sisters, there is a serious problem! To be quite honest, this is a state of emergency for all women. Something is lurking in the bellows waiting to steal you away from the husbands, children, employers, friends, and families that love, need and cherish you and his name…Heart Disease! Heart disease is not only the number one killer of all Americans no matter what race, creed, or nationality, but also the number one killer of women. African-American women are disproportionately affected by heart disease, which is more prevalent among them in the US than other ethnic or racial groups. The face of heart disease has changed from men to that of men and women and something must be done to stop this dreaded disease.
Heart disease is number of abnormal conditions affecting the heart. This article will focus on coronary heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease (CAD), which are the most common type of heart disease and the number one cause of heart attacks. Individuals with CAD have hardened and narrow arteries, which are the pipes that supply blood to the muscles of the heart. In order for the heart to beat efficiently, it must receive nutrients and oxygen via blood. The average adult heart beats 100,000 times a day. If the blood vessels are blocked or narrowed, the heart must work harder to get blood to itself. Overtime, this increased strain on the heart can lead to a heart attack, where some of the muscles of the heart actually die, or heart failure, where the heart beats less efficiently and blood is not pumped to other areas of the body. Both a massive heart attack and heart failure can severely debilitate and/or kill a woman, however, the key is knowing what causes these disorders and how to prevent them.
Risk factors for heart disease that we cannot change include age, gender, race, family history, and previous history of heart attack or other forms of heart disease. As we get older, the risk of heart disease increases. This is not to say that younger people don’t have heart attacks, but the chance does increase with increasing age. Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women and they have heart attacks earlier in life. But as stated earlier, the face of heart disease is changing and CAD is the leading cause of death in American women. African American’s are disproportionately represented when it comes to heart disease and therefore must take active measures to protect themselves. One way to do this is by knowing their family history. If your first-degree relatives (mother, father, sister, or brother) have heart disease, this increases your chances of having the same problems. The discussion at the dinner table and family reunion when we are healthy and happy should include “the talk” about the state of the family’s health. African American’s as a result of mistrust in the medical community, being under-insured or un-insured, or lack access to care are often diagnosed later in the stage of disease and hence have poorer outcomes. Finally, if you have had a heart attack in the past, your risk is significantly increased. Taking medications as prescribed, eating properly, exercising, and seeing your doctor on a regular basis can reduce your chance of having a second heart attack.
By stopping smoking, the single most preventable cause of death in the United States, controlling you cholesterol, taking your blood pressure and diabetes medications, exercising, and losing and maintaining a healthy weight African-American women can live happy, healthier, and long lives. The American Heart Association and the Go Red For Women campaign is raising our awareness about this disease and provides tools to protect us from heart disease. Log on to www.goredforwomen.org to learn more about heart disease, do your own heart disease risk assessment, get great recipes, and come with an action plan to protect you and your loved ones.
Sisters, we love you. Don’t let heart disease take you away from us.
(c) 2008 Rani Whitfield. This article was published February 2008 at http://www.eurweb.com.