She’s a 31-year-old African-American woman and she’s already concerned about heart disease. Megan Bailey knows the disease runs in her blood, literally, taking the life of two people she loved – her grandmother and her father.
Megan felt her father was taken too soon. She remembers that traumatic day. She was just 11-years-old. Her mom picked her up from school and took her to the hospital where her dad had already passed. Her young mind, unfamiliar with death, surmised that he was in a deep sleep. But he never woke up. Gone, at the age of 47.
That’s why Megan, too, feels vulnerable to heart disease at a younger age. She wasn’t always concerned. Megan once embraced the invincibility of youth, especially in her college years, eating fatty foods and fast food, oblivious to the benefits of exercise.
But her choices came with a price. Megan developed some of the risk factors for heart disease early, facing high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.
Then, last year, she attended an American Heart Association event, sharing her family’s story of heart disease, and that was her wake up call. “I am really in that prime time of needing to exercise, eat well, and get more health checkups. I have fallen off the wagon. I’m a social smoker.”
Smoking is another heart disease risk factor. She says, “There are a lot of things I know that I need to curtail because of my family history. I am relatively thin, so you don’t see the effects right way.” But Megan knows her risk increases with time, if she doesn’t make changes. So, she is starting to eat healthier. “I don’t have high blood pressure and high cholesterol today,” she states.
Megan, like many of us when it comes to our health, is a work in progress. “Every day, I need to be mindful. I would tell people that we have to make lifestyle changes. Plan your meals. Make healthy choices.”
Changing our lifestyle can save our lives. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women. African-Americans have a greater risk than whites. African-American women have a higher risk for it than any other ethnic group. Yet, many of us don’t know the risk factors. I’ve mentioned some, but others include diabetes, physical inactivity, and being overweight.
February is National American Heart Month. The American Heart Association launched its 10th annual “Go Red for Women” campaign because heart disease affects more women than men and it’s more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. Yet, here is the inspiring statistic. Heart disease is 80 percent preventable. We can save our hearts.
Learn more about heart disease and how to join the Go Red for Women Celebration in Indianapolis on Feb. 22. Go to the community page of wthr.com.
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