I can’t believe that I’ve joined the leagues of famous divas Toni Braxton and Star Jones. No, I don’t have my own reality show. And I’m certainly not famous. But like too many women I’m young, African-American, fabulous . . .and battling heart disease. Just like my famous counterparts, I’ve learned the hard way that heart disease isn’t just an old white man’s ailment.
Although we divas may look like we have it altogether on the outside, many of us young African-American women are quietly suffering from this silent killer. According to the National Heart and Lung Institute, heart disease is the number one killer of American women. One in four women dies of heart disease. And the news is even bleaker for black women. Heart disease is more common among African-American women than white women due to several factors including high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and stress.
No divas are immune. After finding herself extremely short of breath and tired while on vacation, former View host and Celebrity Apprentice notable Star Jones visited her doctor. She was surprised to learn that she needed open heart surgery. Since undergoing surgery in 2010, she’s been an advocating heart health for women through the American Heart Association. Of heart disease, Star Jones said, "I became one of millions of Americans who suffer from the number one killer in America. And when it comes to African-Americans and women, it beats the next four causes of death combined."
Sexy R&B singer and reality star Toni Braxton hardly seemed like a candidate for heart disease. Fit and weighing just 110 pounds, she was surprised to feel strange symptoms while performing in the musical Aida. After going to the emergency room she learned that she had pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining of the heart. She also learned that she had uncontrolled high blood pressure, which can contribute to heart disease. Of heart disease, Braxton has said, “You think it’s some old guy,retired. You can be in your 30s, weigh less than 115 pounds, exercise—and have heart disease."
While nothing completely eliminates your risk, there are things that an everyday diva can do to reduce her risk. The American Heart Association recommends these simple steps:
- Stop smoking and if you’re smoke-free, don’t even think about starting
- Manage your blood sugar
- Get your blood pressure under control
- Lower your cholesterol
- Know your family history
- Exercise regularly and stay active
- Lose weight
- Eat healthy
If you don’t know your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar levels, visit your doctor. And if you haven’t got a clue how to “eat healthy” your doctor can set you on the right path.
I was born with a heart defect and have had open heart surgery to correct it. So I have to take extra care to reduce future risk. For me that means eating right and guarding my work out times like they are sacred. Nothing comes before me and my health – not even family.
Changing my lifestyle is the only way that I’ll have a chance against this killer. I want to continue to be young, black and fabulous for years to come.
Do you know your risk factors? How are you reducing your risk?
Visit goredforwomen.org to learn more.
Words: Yolanda Darville
Yolanda Darville is a mom, writer, and blogger focusing on inspiring and empowering women. Learn more about her on her blog http://bahamamommyinc.com/.