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Guard Your Heart

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

February is American Heart Month. It is important to recognize that heart disease is the number one killer in women and there are ways to combat it. The Go Red For Women® campaign is a great tool that provides information about symptoms of heart disease as well as lifesaving information. More women today are aware of heart disease thanks to the Go Red For Women® campaign.

I learned a lot about heart conditions while doing research on this subject. The most fascinating thing I learned is that you can be physically fit and still suffer from heart failure or cardiac arrest. One reason for this could be because a person has an arrhythmia which means the heart is beating too fast, too slow, or irregularly and not meeting the needs of the body. Genetics could play a part in this also.

Heart disease comes in many forms. Some forms are atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), heart failure and congestive heart failure. Atherosclerosis is a condition whereby plaque caused by fatty deposits, cholesterol, calcium and cell waste, build up in the walls of the arteries causing the blood flow to slow down and not reach the heart efficiently.   It is usually a slow progression but can happen to people as young as 20 and up to 60 years of age.

Some of the causes of atherosclerosis are cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and physical inactivity. It gets worse and worse over time due to the fatty deposits, cholesterol, calcium, and cellular waste. When the plaque in the artery ruptures, it causes a blood clot to form blocking the blood flow to the heart causing a heart attack. If it blocks the blood flow to the brain, a stroke can occur.

Congestive heart failure is another form of heart disease. It happens because the heart doesn’t pump blood as efficiently as it should or the heart is not getting enough oxygen. Also, other issues that can occur are heart valve problems in which the valves have difficulty opening or closing not allowing proper blood flow.

Here are ways to combat heart disease and avoid a heart attack:

  1. Don’t smoke

  2. Manage blood sugar

  3. Manage blood pressure (know your blood pressure)

  4. Lower cholesterol (know your LDL (bad cholesterol) compared to your HDL (good cholesterol)

  5. Know your family history

  6. Stay active/exercise regularly

  7. Lose weight if necessary

  8. Eat healthy

Another problem as it relates to the heart is stroke. Stoke disproportionately affects African American women. African American women are less likely than Caucasian women to be aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death. The causes of stroke are similar to those of heart disease. High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and family history are directly linked to stroke and African American women are almost two times more at risk for having a stroke than Caucasian women.

Here are some stroke warning signs:

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg on one side of the body

  2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

  3. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

  4. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

  5. Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Here are some interesting statistics and facts about heart disease and stroke regarding women:

  1. 6 million American women are affected by heart disease

  2. 37 million American women are at risk for developing heart disease

  3. Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths in women each year

  4. Warning signs of heart disease for women are not the same as in men

  5. in 2012, 56% of women identified heart disease as the leading cause of death for women compared with 30% in 1997

  6. In 1997, women thought cancer was the leading cause of death for women instead of heart disease

  7. In 2012, 36% of black women and 34% of Hispanic women identified heart disease as the top killer of women

  8. 44% of women 25-34 had the lowest awareness rate of any age group

Here are some statistics and facts about heart disease and stroke that affect men and women:

  1. Cardiovascular diseases kill nearly 50,000 African American women annually

  2. 49% of African American women ages 20 or older have heart diseases

  3. 1 in 5 African American women believes she is at risk

  4. 52% of African American women are aware of signs and symptoms of a heart attack

  5. 36% of African American women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk

  6. 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease

  7. More than 40% of non-Hispanic blacks have high blood pressure.

  8. Research now shows that African American people may have a gene that is sensitive to the effects of salt

  9. Since 1994, more women have died from heart disease than men

To guard your heart is to protect your life. The statistical information is very telling and shows startling information as it relates to our risk factors and awareness about heart disease. It was alarming to see that almost half of African American women ages 20 and older have heart disease, and that 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease. However, I was also alarmed that only half of us know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, but only a little more than a quarter of us know that heart disease is our greatest health risk.

It’s good that we recognize the signs, but we should also recognize that changes need to occur so that you don’t have to recognize the signs. We have to do something about changing these statistics and changing our habits so that we do not have any adverse reaction to this terrible disease.

I hope that you never have to encounter heart disease, other heart conditions or stroke of any kind. I live my life understanding that awareness is key, and it’s important for us to make sure that we take care of ourselves so that we do not have to encounter such horrific situations. My prayer is for you and your family to have good health and be well in your everyday life. For more information on heart disease, heart conditions and stroke, you go to the website below or for the American Heart Association®.

Live, laugh, love, and pray.

God Bless You with Good Health and Wellness,


Antoinette Shar’ron Johnson

“Empowering, inspiring, motivating, and uplifting your mind, body, and soul!”

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