• Brettney Douglas-Al Hindi

HEY QUEEN, your heart matters: Tips on heart health

Updated: Feb 20, 2020

February is American Heart Month, and there is no better time to learn how take care of your heart.

We, black women, hold the world on our shoulders, and the stress of it all is breaking our hearts, literally.

We are depleted.

We are tired.

But our pride won’t allow us to even give voice to any other adjective or emotion that diminishes our strength and our light.

We would rather suffer in silence than to let anyone see us sweat, let alone have a single strand of hair out of place.

We can “make a dollar out of 15 cents” and still come back with change leftover.

We are magic.

We are resilient.

We can do anything we put our minds to, but rest, we haven't quite figured out how to do that.

Even Jesus rested. But us? Nah.

It sounds good, but it’s extremely difficult, seemingly impossible at times for us as black women.

Even when our bodies are at rest, our minds almost never.

And our lack of rest, our lack of peace, our lack of sanity is killing us.

We’re dying a slow death, early. Earlier than we should.

While heart attacks and strokes can affect pretty much anyone, heart disease is the leading cause of death in Black women 20 years of age and older and claims the lives of nearly 50,000 African American women yearly.

As if that weren’t alarming enough, studies show that only 1 in 5 African American women believe she is personally at risk….and only 52 percent of African American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

There are certain risk factors that are out of our control like gender, age, and family history; but other risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure/high cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco use, lack of exercise and stress are things we can control.

According to the CDC, 80% of deaths from coronary artery disease could be prevented through proper diet, better management and treatment for individuals with higher risks, and lifestyle changes.

Before you drive yourself into a frenzy, take a deep breath and know that there are a bunch of things that you could do to keep your heart healthy.

Here are a few tips:

1. Schedule checkups with your doctor

You are your biggest advocate. If you are aware of your family’s medical history, and/or have concerns that you may be experiencing any unusual symptoms like shortness of breath, or pain (in your chest, neck, jaw, throat, back, etc.), take the time to see your primary care physician.

2. Get active.

Move your body. Incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine for at least 15-30 mins a day whether it’s in the form of dancing, walking/jogging, riding a bike, or cardio.

3. Healthy food choices.

Eat the rainbow. The more colorful your food is, the better. Consuming lots of fruits and vegetables like leafy greens (kale, spinach), berries, nuts, fatty fish/fish oil, oatmeal, whole grains, avocado, tomatoes, and limiting your sodium intake are all great choices for a balanced diet.

4. Managing your stress levels.

The first step in managing your stress levels is to be aware of your triggers and finding ways to cope and/or avoid the stressors in your life. Practicing mindfulness is a huge stress reliever. It can be achieved in a variety of ways through things like yoga, meditation, gardening, deep breathing, cleaning the house, and listening to music.

Now that we know that heart disease is our greatest health threat as women, let’s be cognizant of how we treat bodies, and how we spend our time.

Start putting yourself first for a change, drop the superwoman act, and protect your energy at all costs!

“Beating heart disease and stroke means more time for women to be change-makers, business leaders and innovators, and more time to be moms, sisters, partners, and friends. Beating cardiovascular diseases means more time to be here and be you.” -@american_health

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