This week, we lost a hip-hop legend. On Tuesday, March 13, Craig Mack, widely known for hip hop classic, Flava In Ya Ear, passed away at the tender age of 46. From all articles that I’ve read, it seemed as though he had heart disease for some time. According to one article, he had been sick for a little while, but come on y’all… 46 is WAY too young to die of heart disease. Amirite???
Well, let’s make a concerted effort to decrease the amount of heart disease we collectively have as a community. Let’s begin (or continue) the education process so that we can know what it is, the symptoms, and what we – both individually and collectively – can do to help stave it off and strengthen our hearts.
What is Heart Disease?
Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD) are those conditions that involve blockage or narrowing of the blood vessels anywhere in the body. Heart disease is a specific kind of CVD that refers to blockages in vessels in and around the heart, which mainly have to do with atherosclerosis. When these blockages occur, they lead to conditions like Heart Attack (aka Myocardial Infarction), Angina (chest pain), High Blood Pressure, Stroke, and Rheumatic Heart Disease. Some other types of CVD include Congestive Heart Failure, Arrhythmia, Rheumatic Heart Disease, and Heart Valve Problems.
What are the Risk Factors?
Let’s start by defining ‘risk factors’. A risk factor, according to the Nat’l Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is a habit or condition that makes a person more likely to develop a disease. These are the things that can make an existing disease worse or increase your chances of developing a disease that runs in the family.
Risk factors for CVD that you CAN CONTROL are:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Diabetes and pre-diabetes
- Overweight and obesity
- Physical inactivity (sitting around more than you move during the day)
- Having a family history of early heart disease
- Unhealthy diet
Risk factors that are out of your control, but can be greatly affected by those above are:
- Age (over 55 for women)
- Family history of early onset CVD
- Preeclampsia during pregnancy
Can Heart Disease be cured?
According to the NHLBI, once the damage is done, there is no reversing it. BUT don’t get discouraged! You can make significant changes to your diet and lifestyle that can decrease the progression and even reverse some of the damage that is done. How much of a reversal really depends on both how much damage is done and how resilient you are about implementing the necessary changes.
I have several of the risk factors listed. What can I do to change my fate?
You’ve already taken the first step. Congratulations! By knowing the risks and acknowledging how they apply to you, you are now able to start making a difference in your health. The next thing to do would be to analyze your activity level and your food choices. See where you can incorporate more movement, fun, and joy in your days. Get up and get out more. Do more things. They don’t have to be strenuous things in the beginning, just get active and begin to enjoy life in different ways. Begin to notice what you are eating, including snacks and beverages. Notice how many (or how few) fresh veggies you eat in a day. Can you increase it? Do you eat the same veggies all the time? Can you switch it up and try something new? Do you eat out for every meal? If so, can you cook one or two more times a week to start out? These little things can really help you heal from the inside out and make a major impact on your health.
Now, let’s get to work!
Stay tuned for more Flava In Ya Ear about how you can improve your heart health and live a good long life.