Earlier this week, hip-hop fans were saddened to learn that heart disease led to rapper Craig Mack’s death. He was only 46. Even worse, his passing isn’t shocking. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of all Americans, and African-Americans are at a higher risk than any other ethnic group.
This is something you’ve heard before, right? Blacks, particularly Black males, are more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes. We even know the causes. Bad diets (fried foods, high sugar intake, and limited amounts of fruits and vegetables). Limited exercise (sedentary jobs, no workout regimen). Stress (racism, family drama, financial woes). All of these factors can be detrimental to your health, but they are not the only reason our community is disproportionately afflicted. The biggest reason? Inaction.
“Early detection or intervention is key,” says Dr. Keith Churchwell, senior vice president of Yale New Haven Hospital’s cardiovascular services and volunteer for the American Heart Association. “[Medical professionals] can help you create a strategy to lower blood pressure and avoid meds.” Experts say the latter tends to be a major concern for many individuals. There is a fear that medication is a life sentence, and let’s not forget about the side effects. Who hasn’t seen those commercials with the warnings of the adverse consequences of pills that are supposed to help you? But a good doctor is a game changer. “People want to avoid taking meds because of fear,” he adds. “But there are many options and we can find the right combo to decrease any negative impact.”
There is also another option: No meds.
“High blood pressure/hypertension and diabetes are all conditions that can ultimately affect heart failure, but both can be treated aggressively and symptoms can decrease,” adds Dr. Churchwell. The good doctor’s prescription is simple: This is not a DIY matter. “This requires medical therapy and lifestyle changes.” A correct, and thorough, diagnosis is a must and the earlier the better.
Overall, preventive care is the best method. “People must get over the fear or resistance of being seen by a physician or nurse in the field. They can identify problems early,” says Dr. Churchwell. “You can also go to local drug stores, like CVS, or supermarkets to get your blood pressure checked.” Recent studies also reveal that barbershops set up days where health professionals give customers check-ups are a burgeoning health care hot spot.
Early intervention can combat heart failure. “Heart failure is an end diagnosis,” says Dr. Churchwell. The condition is often preceded by high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which are treatable and in many cases reversible. “These conditions are often due to things you have control over.” Don’t wait until you’re experiencing symptoms. Yearly check-ups are the best prevention.
SIGNS OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (HYPERTENSION)
- Changes in vision
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
SIGNS OF DIABETES
- Frequent urination
- Inability to exercise
- Family history