A Stronger Heart for a Healthier Life

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February 4, 2021
Go Red for Women

African American Mental Health and Wellness (AMEN) team is collaborating with KAZI FM 88.7 in producing a radio series to highlight the importance of addressing mental health and physical wellness in the African American community. The monthly series will feature AMEN team members from the School of Nursing, leaders from Mt. Zion Baptist and Rehoboth Baptist churches, and community organizations who provide mental health resources and support in Travis county.

Episode 16: A Stronger Heart for a Healthier Life

Audio file

Moderator Jacki Hecht, interviewed Judy M. Garner, BA. MA, MS, retired Air Force Officer and current Board Member of the American Heart Association (AHA). Ms. Garner’s father died of congestive heart failure and she has become passionate about the importance of eating healthy and exercise.

Judy Garner brings awareness to the impact that cardiovascular disease has on African Americans. Although the black community only comprises 14% of the nation's total population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that approximately 25% of individuals hospitalized from COVID-19 are black and are “four times more likely to die from the disease compared to white individuals.” Structural racism has been known to significantly affect the way in which many African Americans are treated within the healthcare system and has, unfortunately, been a “feature of social-economic and the political system in which we all exist.” The American Heart Association (AHA) has recently declared structural racism as a major cause of poor health and premature death in heart disease and stroke. The AHA strives to minimize the impact of structural racism by serving people of all communities, developing new strategic goals, continuing research, and bringing more attention to health equity to ensure a “relentless force for longer, healthier lives.”

Cardiovascular disease has claimed more lives of women than all forms of cancer combined and affects 1 in every 2 black women compared to 1 in every 3 white women. Every year, approximately 50,000 African American women die from cardiovascular disease. Ms. Garner recommends decreasing salt and sugar intake and getting about 150 minutes of exercise each week to lessen the chances of getting heart disease. It is also recommended to make sleep a top priority since it can “significantly improve the way in which we deal with stress and our overall mental health.” Symptoms of cardiovascular disease are often dismissed due to their common nature, and can include but are not limited to jaw, neck, or upper back pain, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, pressure in the lower chest or upper abdomen, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, fainting, and indigestion. It is advised to seek medical attention for those experiencing any of these symptoms.

Go Red for Women is a lifesaving research program for women that was established to further research signs and symptoms of heart disease. Their mission is to “close the gender gap in research and STEM and create a platform for women to address the greatest health risks.” On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, Go Red for Women virtually held their 17th annual luncheon to further bring awareness to this pressing issue. Additionally, every woman is encouraged to participate in the AHA’s latest fitness and lifestyle program Facebook group that is called #GoRedGetFit. This group was designed to help individuals “begin a healthy lifestyle journey that positively impacts the way you look and feel” and continues to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease and its associated disparities.

Below you will find a list of resources from the American Heart Association:

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