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49% Of Black Women Over 20 Have Heart Disease & May Not Even Know It

Women's Health

There is a silent killer that lurks among even the most proactive women of color that they may not even know exists. This particular villain is elusive and does not often shows signs of danger to it's victim, but has successfully become the #1 killer of black women in the US.


Sugar, salt, and stress are some examples of the near-fatal weapons that have been historically held in the arsenal of black women. It may come as a surprise, but such factors have resulted in an alarming percentage of our population being affected by heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, 49% of black women in our country over the age of 20 have some form of heart disease, which can ultimately lead to a stroke or heart attack.

High blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, high blood cholesterol, lack of physical activity, a family history of heart disease, and obesity are some of the major risk factors that lead up to heart disease, which kills nearly 50,000 black women in the US every year. The American Heart Association also revealed that only 36% percent of black women know that heart disease is the #1 risk of death for our demographic, and only 1 in 5 black women feels personally at risk.


You read that right. There is an unmasked assailant that's responsible for killing more than 50,000 black women every year, but less than ¼ of us are even aware.

Traditionally, black families have existed under a matriarchy for the most part, leaving black women to develop a superwoman complex. We must be sisters, mothers, daughters, lovers, and friends, and sometimes we forget to take care of the person who takes care of everyone else. This blatant neglect of self-care can contribute to poor diet and high stress.


Black women have a higher risk of heart disease than any other demographic. Stress, diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol are all risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and are regular parts of a black girl's reality. Even women who are healthy may be at risk due to their family history..

We are more likely to die at an earlier age when compared to women of any other ethnicity.

This epidemic demands a response, so we have to make a choice. We can continue to let this unmasked villain steal the lives of our sisters, mothers, friends, and daughters, or we can choose knowledge. Organizations like the American Heart Association are on a mission to make the choice easier for black women. The organization is dedicated to raising money to fund life-saving science and provide resources to those seeking to live their best lives.

After doing some research, here are three ways we as black women can slay the boogie man that is cardiovascular disease, and proceed in slaying the day with a healthy heart:

Walk It Like You Talk It


You're a busy woman with a lot of stuff on your plate, I get it. But you can't continue to fill from an empty cup. Set out at least 20 minutes a day for physical wellness to lower your stress levels and decrease your chances of heart disease. Something as simple as a half-hour walk or choosing the stairs instead of the elevator can help reduce your chances of a heart attack or stroke.

Get Enough Sleep


We live in an era that suggests not going to sleep will make you rich, and this ideology is just not true. The American Heart Association suggests that you get 7-8 hours of sleep per day to improve your cardiovascular health and maintain a healthy weight. A study done by the American Heart Association in 2011 showed that poor sleep quality resulted in high blood pressure levels and proved that people who do not sleep enough can have poor metabolism and experience weight gain.

Eat To Live


Salt and sugar are the perfectly delicious combo that can be harmful to our health at higher than recommended levels, but in which we indulge without remorse. Genetic predisposition in the form of a heredity history of heart disease tend to make black women more susceptible than other demographics to high blood pressure and strokes. Part of reversing the epidemic that cardiovascular disease created means unlearning some of our unhealthy relationships toward food. Hypertension, diabetes, and obesity are all risk factors for heart disease and disproportionately affect black women, mainly due to our diets. Cut back on the salt and sugar to help improve your overall physical wellness, and even add a squash a day and other fresh vegetables to help add to a healthy diet..

Hug It Out


I'm not a huge fan of physical affection, but if it means better health, I'm here for it. Studies show that hugging can reduce blood pressure among some women, so grab a beautiful woman and hug her today, you might just be helping her health!

Millennial women have access to so much knowledge in the 21st century, so it makes no sense that a disease that is so preventable is wiping us out. We've worked to overcome depression, oppression, and every other foe that we've encountered under the sun, and so we cannot let heart disease win the battle. Even if it means coming face-to-face and being in opposition with our own self-sabotage.

The weapons of choice in my arsenal include a little bit of sugar, salt, and stress, but mostly importantly, for years I was a smoker. As a woman who's smoked tobacco, and the daughter of a mother who smoked tobacco, and the granddaughter of a woman who also smoked tobacco, I was aware that I had been blissfully existing and sabotaging my own physical health.

I read the warning on the side of the cigarette pack, but I didn't pay it any mind. I would repeat my mom's age old mantra: Really, everything gives you cancer. Or something's gonna kill you eventually anyway. I ain't scared of no mf Surgeon General.

This attitude is one that has helped develop the notoriety of the unmasked killer that is cardiovascular disease, and the only way to remedy the epidemic is to spread knowledge. Cancer doesn't have anything on heart disease, a fact that had been pretty much elusive to me until I had written this article. When I think about my mother and best friend, or my sister and my aunt, I understand that this epidemic may one day affect one or all of us if we are not more mindful of our physical wellness.

Thanks to technology there is a multitude of information and resources that allow women to take a front seat when it comes to their heart health and quality of life. You may not be able to control your genetic predisposition, but you can take control of your diet, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Get that heart pumping, girl.

To get free resources on heart disease, stroke and the early warning signs, and to learn more about how to improve your heart health, click here.

This post is in collaboration with The American Heart Association, but all opinions are our own.

Featured image by Shutterstock

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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