Posted Feb. 12, 2007 – Heart disease is very personal for Grammy-winning R&B singer Toni Braxton.
Not only is she this year’s spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, but she is a heart disease survivor.
"I have heart disease,” she admitted to People magazine, adding that she found out about four or five years ago when she started experiencing unusual exhaustion. Her particular brand of heart disease is called pericarditis – an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart. She has hypertension too.
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As with many young African Americans heart disease sufferers, Braxton's heart problem went undetected until a problem arose.
“Many African-American women remain unaware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer, even though more than 42 million American women are living with one or more types of cardiovascular disease,” said Jennifer Mieres, M.D., associate professor of medicine and the director of nuclear cardiology at the Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology at New York University School of Medicine and Go Red For Women spokeswoman.
And yet heart disease is the No. 1 killer of African-American women, according to data from the Heart Association. In fact, government data shows that African Americans are at greater risk for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases than Caucasians. Fewer than 50 percent of Black women will get one or more of these diseases, compared with 35 percent of White women who will.
But as Braxton, 40, helps to kick off National Heart Month as a Heart Association spokeswoman, she gets personal in hopes of helping others. She says she’s fighting her heart and blood pressure problems with a bevy of diet and lifestyle changes.
"I eat relatively well, but sometimes having those pizzas and burgers late at night – I had to change that," she says.
While the American Heart Association has Braxton as a spokeswoman, the organization is also still looking to hear how you or a loved one is fighting heart disease as part of its “Go Red” heart health campaign.
“According to the most recent data, cardiovascular disease caused approximately one death per minute among females. That is why the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement seeks to build awareness of this deadly disease and challenge women to take action to reduce their personal risk,” Mieres said.
For every heart, there is a story – and the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement wants to hear yours. Participants have a chance to become the official “Heart of Go Red” representative, representing the movement in 2008-2009 and possibly appear in a television special on women and heart disease. Stories are still being accepted at www.GoRedForWomen.org. The group will continue to accept those stories through Feb. 22.
Since high blood pressure often leads to heart problems, health officials advise you to keep your blood pressure in check. Check out the A Healthy BET article on "Pressure Pointers" for tips.