Check. Change. Control. Those three words can change your health.
Here are the hard facts from the American Heart Association. We, as African-Americans, are 33 percent more likely to die from heart disease and stroke than other races. And, more than 96,000 African-Americans will die from heart disease this year.
One of the main culprits? High blood pressure. That, too, is more prevalent among African-Americans. Why are the statistics so scary for us? Dr. Jerry Smartt, an African-American neurologist in Carmel and Board Member of the American Heart Association’s Midwest Affiliate, said, “There are many reasons. They include lack of access to health care, lack of health insurance, a mistrust of the health system, and lack of patient compliance.”
He continued: “Many African-Americans, with high blood pressure, don’t like taking medicine or they stop taking the medicine they’ve been prescribed.” Dr. Smartt often educates Black churches about the dangers of high blood pressure. “High blood pressure is controllable,” he said. “I’d rather prevent a stroke and not see you in my office.”
Some of the risks for high blood pressure include our diets and obesity. I don’t know about you, but I grew up on fatty foods, in a day when our parents were not educated about healthy alternatives. On a shoestring budget, we ate fried hot dogs, fried bologna, fried chicken and some of my grandmother’s, delicious, high-fat foods, often made with lard. There were vegetables tossed in, but they couldn’t erase the fat content.
It’s harder to break those high-calorie food habits in a stress-filled, fast-food world.
February is American Heart Month and the American Heart Association wants to help us prevent high blood pressure or control it. It has launched a new community program, targeting African-Americans, called “Check. Change. Control.” Lynne Griffin, a health equities director with the American Heart Association, said the program “encourages African-Americans to monitor their blood pressure, at least twice a month, and maintain a healthy blood pressure.”
You can register for the program, online, at heart360.org/Indiana. You’ll record your blood pressure readings and get heart healthy tips. The American Heart Association has even set up sites with blood pressure monitors, in churches and other locations, where you can check your blood pressure. Some sites will also offer educational sessions, such as cooking demos and fitness tips.
But Griffin said, “A lot of Indianapolis churches already offer high blood pressure screenings. Or, people can check their blood pressure at Walgreens or CVS and record those numbers on our website.”
“Check. Change. Control.” hopes to enroll 360 adults by the registration deadline of March 10. It’s the second year for the national program and it ends on June 30. Griffin proudly reported that, “Last year, Indiana came in second in the nation with compliance.”
That’s evidence of the Hoosier commitment to check their blood pressure, change it through healthy habits, and control their numbers. Dr. Smartt added, “Your blood pressure numbers are high when the top number is more than 140 and the bottom number is more than 90. You can get those numbers down by decreasing your daily salt intake, eating more fruits and vegetables, and exercising, with 20 minutes of cardio most days of the week.”
If your church is interested in registering as a “Check. Change. Control.” site, call (317) 732-4702. We can take control of our health.
Email comments to Angela Cain at firstname.lastname@example.org.