|Rest in Peace Brother Ron!|
In early 2016 I was a 58 year-old Black man headed toward a certain quick heart attack death. I was suffering from coronary artery disease, having 4 completely blocked arteries - I had to have emergency open heart bypass surgery.
Though I didn’t know I had this type of massive blockage in my blood vessels, it was not surprising because as a Black man I had been under stress my whole adult life. I personally believe based on living and research that 'stress is the major contributor' to why Black males have the highest death rates from heart disease in this country.
Prior to my surgery I did know that heart disease was prominent in my family history and that Blacks had the highest heart disease rate in the U.S. and one of the highest rates in the world. I've also known for some time about the 'stress impact of racism' on Black heart disease.
During my post-surgery cardiac rehabilitation I made a commitment to take the lead in reducing the extremely high rates of African American heart disease, thus I started Black Hearts Matter. In the past year 10 Black males I knew died from heart disease mainly ‘heart attacks’ and 85% were under the age of 60.
Just the first week of this month another Black man I know Ronald Collins who was under age 60 died from heart disease - complications of congestive heart failure. Collin's was a solid good, down to earth 'tell it like it is Brother'; he was a math teacher and a football coach; he was a positive influential force in teaching, supporting, and guiding Black students, particularly young Black males.
Ronald Collins untimely death is hurtful but it further motivates me to carry on the work as a Black heart disease reduction advocate. For me the disproportionately high Black death rates from chronic diseases is the unfinished business of the Civil Rights struggle and the new battle front. Martin Luther King Jr. stated: "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
Some Blacks will say that God called Ron home; some will say it was just his time to go, I disagree with these fatalistic views. From my perspective, I believe that as Blacks we can prevent heart disease premature deaths through healthy lifestyle changes, heart awareness, and reducing heart disease risk factors: stress, hypertension, obesity, and the ignorance of heart attack and heart failure symptoms.
Indeed, African Americans are disproportionately affected by heart failure. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that congestive heart failure is hitting African Americans in their 30's and 40's at the same rate as Whites in their 50's and 60's.
A 2013 study by the American Heart Association shows that African Americans are lagging significantly behind when it comes to knowing what the risk factors for heart disease thus making us more vulnerable to deaths from heart attacks and heart failure.
As Black folks we must understand that knowing the symptoms of heart failure and heart attacks can save our lives!
Heart failure signs and symptoms may include:
*Shortness of breath when you exert yourself or when you lie down
*Fatigue and weakness
*Swelling (edema) in your legs, ankles and feet
*Rapid or irregular heartbeat
*Reduced ability to exercise
*Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
*Increased need to urinate at night
*Swelling of your abdomen
*Sudden weight gain from fluid retention
*Lack of appetite and nausea
*Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertness
*Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
*Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack
Heart Attack Symptoms
The symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person. Some people can have few symptoms and are surprised to learn they've had a heart attack. It is important that we know the most common symptoms of a heart attack and also remember these facts:
*Heart attacks can start slowly and cause only mild pain or discomfort. Symptoms can be mild or more intense and sudden. Symptoms also may come and go over several hours.
*People who have high blood sugar (diabetes) may have no symptoms or very mild ones. The most common symptom, in both men and women, is chest pain or discomfort.
Some people don't have symptoms at all. Heart attacks that occur without any symptoms or with very mild symptoms are called silent heart attacks.
The most common warning symptoms of a heart attack for both men and women are:
*Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest. The discomfort usually lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain. It also can feel like heartburn or indigestion. The feeling can be mild or severe.
*Upper body discomfort. You may feel pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach (above the belly button).
*Shortness of breath. This may be your only symptom, or it may occur before or along with chest pain or discomfort. It can occur when you are resting or doing a little bit of physical activity.
The symptoms of angina can be similar to the symptoms of a heart attack. Angina is chest pain that occurs in people who have coronary heart disease, usually when they're active. Angina pain usually lasts for only a few minutes and goes away with rest.
Chest pain or discomfort that doesn't go away or changes from its usual pattern (for example, occurs more often or while you're resting) can be a sign of a heart attack. All chest pain should be checked by a doctor.
Pay attention to these other possible symptoms of a heart attack:
*Feeling unusually tired for no reason, sometimes for days (especially if you are a woman)
*Nausea (feeling sick to the stomach) and vomiting
*Light-headedness or sudden dizziness
Any sudden, new symptoms or a change in the pattern of symptoms you already have (for example, if your symptoms become stronger or last longer than usual)
Not everyone having a heart attack has typical symptoms. If you've already had a heart attack, your symptoms may not be the same for another one. However, some people may have a pattern of symptoms that recur. The more signs and symptoms you have, the more likely it is that you're having a heart attack.
Quick Action Can Save Your Life: Call 9–1–1
The signs and symptoms of a heart attack can develop suddenly. However, they also can develop slowly - sometimes within hours, days, or weeks of a heart attack.
Any time you think you might be having heart attack symptoms or a heart attack, don't ignore it or feel embarrassed to call for help. Call 9–1–1 for emergency medical care, even if you are not sure whether you're having a heart attack.
Acting fast can save your life!
An ambulance is the best and safest way to get to the hospital. Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel can check how you are doing and start life-saving medicines and other treatments right away. People who arrive by ambulance often receive faster treatment at the hospital.
The 9–1–1 operator or EMS technician can give you advice. You might be told to crush or chew an aspirin if you're not allergic, unless there is a medical reason for you not to take one. Aspirin taken during a heart attack can limit the damage to your heart and save your life.
Every minute matters. Never delay calling 9–1–1 to take aspirin or do anything else you think might help.
Black men our 'Hearts' are our source of Life;
Because we don't have to think for
our Hearts to beat we can easily take our
Heart for granted and we do;
Practice heart mindfulness.
Your Heart is precious, take care of it!