Written by: Mutshidzi Kwinda
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) such as heart disease are classified as one of those diseases that can be prevented through lifestyle modifications. According to the American Heart Association organization, approximately 80% of CVDs, especially heart diseases, are avoidable.
Although this disease can affect anyone irrespective of gender or race. Statistical data on an article, “Cardiovascular disease in African American women: A healthcare disparity issue” by Richard A. William, note that the mortality rate on coronary heart diseases is about 69% higher in black women than in white women.
The reason behind why most black women suffer and succumb to heart disease is not entirely known. Reasons may range from stress levels to underlying conditions. However, among the many reasons thereof, we can not shake or overlook the apparent challenges that black women hold on their shoulders. From the age of slavery to today, black women have remained the pillars of their families and communities at large. Juggling seemingly impossible to-do lists daily, caring for children, keeping the marriage afloat. All while maintaining jobs and careers, can be take a toll.
In essence, gender roles, the added burden of racial, sexual and socioeconomic adversity towards black women have contributed enormously towards chronic stress which is a primary risk factor of heart diseases.1
And whilst some of these underlying stressors can not be undone immediately, some can. Here are some measures you can take today to protect yourself from being part of the statistics.
You may be asking yourself how does what I eat affect my heart? Well, when you eat food high in saturated and trans fats (e.g fatty cuts of meat, dairy, and coconut oil ) they cause your cholesterol levels to build up in your blood vessels. The build-up plaques, therefore, make it difficult for your blood to circulate to and from your heart. As a result, this may put you at a high risk of heart diseases such as heart attack.
A balanced diet of low salt, low-saturated fatty foods, high fibre, and a plant-based food diet can “substantially” decrease the risk of developing heart disease.2
Regular exercise not only strengthens your external muscles. It can also help make your heart stronger and healthier. Other experts also believe that exercise may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.3
In addition, exercising can help you lose weight. When it comes to heart disease, obesity is one of the biggest risk factors. This is because being overweight can lead to fatty residuals to build-up in your blood vessels as explained above under diet.
Tobacco and Alcohol use
In addition to reducing salt in the diet. And eating more fruits, vegetables, and increasing physical activity. The World Health Organisation adds that it is also important to reduce the consumption of alcohol and tobacco use.
Just like the two points above. Smoking increases the formation of plaques within the blood vessels that carry blood to and from the heart. This is because the chemicals in the cigarette smoke cause the blood to thicken and form clots inside the blood vessels.4 When it comes to alcohol, excessive drinking is listed as a contributing factor to heart diseases like obesity, high blood pressure, heart failure and stroke.5
Finally, it is important to note that taking care of yourself as a woman should be a priority. Making sure that your cup is full before pouring for others should be an optimum goal. In that way, we can better manage our stressors and live a wholesome lifestyle without compromising our overall health.