February: Time for a Heart to Heart Conversation

Posted by [email protected] on February 10, 2017 at 10:05 PM


Time for a Heart to Heart Conversation

It’s February 2017, and Americans are celebrating American Heart Health, Black History, Mental health month, plus a host of other health observances. February is also the month of love when we will celebrate Valentine day and share special gifts with those we love. Love and a focus on the heart are everywhere. For instance, my credit union has a monthly competition and all you have to do to enter to win in February is to draw a heart on a check you are depositing. All stores, supermarkets, and even online sites are sending out the “love” as they try to entice us to spend money to purchase gifts, flowers and other trinkets to show our love.

But why should anyone care about these topics? First, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Heart disease kills on average more than 610,000 Americans each year and accounts for one in every four deaths in our country. An interesting fact reported by the CDC is that more than 50% of these deaths occur in men. So, Heart disease and mental health both have one thing in common, they affect millions of Americans.

As we celebrate Black History Month, it is, even more, starting to realize that African Americans have higher incidences of heart disease and the highest reported use of inpatient mental health services than other races. So, for me, it is becoming more obvious as I reflect on what to do in February, it seems a perfect time for all Americans, but especially African Americans, to stop to have a “heart to heart” conversation. This heart to heart, I believe must first start with themselves, then their families, friends and colleagues, and then, of course, a heart to heart is needed in our communities.

So, you might ask what this should heart to heart include. Can I suggest that we could start by discussing what might be behind these very high rates of heart disease in the African American population? Are there genetic or environmental factors that contribute to these conditions? What is the role of stress, discrimination, and racism on the heart health of our people? What might be the role of diet and physical inactivity? What are the impact of smoking and high blood pressure on these data? What is the impact of unforgiveness on our cardiovascular health? These and a number of other questions should be taken out of hiding and discussed in an open and public dialogue. Not only should these questions be brought out in the open and discussed with no blame, but as a people, African Americans must collectively develop a plan of action to change these data. Since we know that “Black Lives Matters”, this Black History Month, let’s start a conversation about how to reduce heart disease and its related complications in our community. Only then will we be able to live long and healthy lives. After all, it is the time for us to live to see our grand and great grandchildren!

As an African American, please share your story about how you changed your lifestyle to reduce your risk for heart disease or develop healthy behaviors after a heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure or another scare.

 

Healthy Regards,

Dr. Meg

 

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