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
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Taylor "Pretty" Honore is a spiritually centered and equally provocative rapper from Baton Rouge, Louisiana with a love for people and storytelling. You can probably find me planting herbs in your local community garden, blasting "Back That Thang Up" from my mini speaker. Let's get to know each other: @prettyhonore.
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From Monogamy To Polyamory: 'I'm In An Asexual Poly Marriage With My Husband Of 7 Years'
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be asexual and in an open marriage? Relationship Coach Mikki Bey shared her first-hand experience with us as well as answered some of our burning questions.
Like a lot of people, Mikki met her now husband, Raheem Ali, online. As soon as they met, they instantly fell in love and got engaged on their first date. Just 90 days after they met, the couple tied the knot and have now been married for seven years. Raheem and Mikki aren’t your typical married couple, and despite being married for almost a decade, their marriage is anything but traditional. Mikki and Raheem have what she calls an "asexual polyamorous marriage."
Defining Her Sexuality
It wasn't until last summer that Mikki found the language to define her sexuality. "I didn't have the language for it until last summer," she explained to xoNecole. "Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing.”
Mikki always thought she was broken because she had no interest in sex. Mikki noticed after her friends came to visit and started discussing their sexual fantasies that she realized something was different about her. “At that point, I knew something was definitely different about me since I do not have sexual fantasies at all. It was truly news to me that people are at work thinking about sex! That was not my experience.” This led to Mikki researching asexuality, which she soon realized fit her to a T. “It felt like breathing new air when I was able to call it by name," said Mikki.
"Looking back, I just thought sex wasn't my thing. It was never enjoyable for me, and I'd go years without even noticing it."
Asexuality refers to people who experience little or no sexual attraction, experience attraction without acting on it sexually, or experience sexual attraction differently based on other factors. Like most things, asexuality falls on a spectrum and encompasses many other identities. It's important to remember, however, that attraction and action are not always synonymous: some asexuals may reject the idea of sexual contact, but others may be sex-neutral and engage in sexual activity.
It's possible that some asexuals will have sex with someone else despite not having a libido or masturbating, but others will have sex with a partner because it brings a sense of connection.
From a Traditional Marriage to Kitchen Table Polyamory
Although Mikki never really had a high sex drive, it wasn’t until after the birth of her son, that she noticed her sex drive took a real nosedive. “I never had a high sex drive, but about a year after my son was born, I realized I had zero desire. My husband has a high sex drive, and I knew that it would not be sustainable to not have sex in our marriage at that time.”
She was determined to find an alternative to divorce and stumbled upon a polyamory conversation on Clubhouse. Upon doing her own research, she brought up the idea to their husband, who was receptive. “It’s so interesting to me that people weigh sex so heavily in relationships when even if you are having a ton of sex, it’s still a very small percentage of the relationship activity," Mikki shared.
They chose polyamory because Mikki still wanted to be married, but she also wanted to make sure that Raheem was getting his individual needs and desires met, even if that meant meeting them with someone else. “I think that we have been programmed to think that our spouses need to be our 'everything.' We do not operate like that. There is no one way that fits all when it comes to relationships, despite what society may try to tell you. Their path to doing this thing called life together may be different from yours, but they found what works for them. We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us,” Mikki explained.
"We have chosen to design a marriage that works for us. We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sex partners to lifetime partners if it should go there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it."
She continued, “We both consent to each of us having everything from casual sexual partners to lifetime partners if it should get there. We believe love is abundant and do not limit ourselves or each other on how we express it. Our dynamic is parallel with kitchen table poly aspirations.”
Kitchen table polyamory (KTP) is a polyamorous relationship in which all participants are on friendly terms enough to share a meal at the kitchen table. Basically, it means you have some form of relationship with your partner’s other partner, whether as a group or individually. A lot of times, KTP relationships are highly personal and rooted in mutual respect, communication, and friendship.
Intimacy in an Asexual Polyamorous Marriage
Mikki says she and her husband, Raheem, still share intimate moments despite being in a polyamorous marriage. “Our intimacy is emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical, although non-sexual. We are intentional about date nights weekly, surprising and delighting each other daily, and most of all, we communicate our needs regularly. In my opinion, our intimacy is top-tier! I give my husband full-body massages, mani-pedis and make sure I am giving him small physical touches/kisses throughout the day. He is also very intentional about showing me his love and affection.”
Raheem and Mikki now use their lives as examples for others. On their website, thepolycouplenextdoor.com, they coach people interested in learning how to be consensually non-monogamous. “We are both relationship coaches. I specialized in emotional regulation, and Raheem specializes in communication and conflict resolution. The same tools we use in our marriage help our clients succeed in polyamory."
Mikki advises people who may be asexual or seeking non-monogamy to communicate their needs openly and to consider seeking sex therapy or intimacy coaching. Building a strong relationship with a non-sexual partner requires both empathy and compassion.
For more of Mikki, follow her on Instagram @getmikkibey. Follow the couple's platform on Instagram @thepolycouplenextdoor.
Featured image by skynesher/Getty Images