There are so many critical issues facing our country today from gun violence, to the environment. Given that it’s black history month, I wonder what leaders like Martin Luther King or Barbara Jordan would be fighting for today. I know one issue in particular that has touched me in so many ways is cardiovascular disease in the black community. I first delved into this issue when my father passed away from a sudden heart attack nearly 12 years ago. What I learned was that my father had all of the warning signs for a potential heart attack, yet he had never been given a stress test and didn’t seem concerned when he had circulation issues just a few weeks before he died. He was also under a great deal of stress, as I would later learn, but I felt helpless knowing that he wasn’t pro-active in dealing with his health.
The following quote highlights the problem:
Americans suffer more than 2 million heart attacks and strokes each year. Cardiovascular disease—including heart disease and stroke—is the leading cause of death in the United States. Every day, 2,200 people die from cardiovascular disease—that’s 815,000 Americans each year, or 1 in every 3 deaths. (http://millionhearts.hhs.gov/abouthds/cost-consequences.html)
Blacks are much more likely to have cardiovascular disease, and not all of it can be explained by lifestyle or genetic traits.
In 2005 my mother suffered a stroke from which she never fully recovered. She passed away nearly 3 years ago. What I learned about strokes was just as bad as heart attacks, “In 2009, black men were 38 percent more likely to die of stroke than white men, and black women were 36 percent more likely to die of stroke than white women” (http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/01/29/to-your-health/black-men-women-hit-hardest-by-disease.html)
Study after study I learned about showed that blacks had a much higher rate of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and death from heart disease. Health disparities are a critical issue for all communities.
I feel lucky that fitness has always been a part of my life, and the passing of my parents spurred me into action – I started Take Back the Trail to honor my parents, and in the hope that my efforts might make some small dent in the huge need that exists for fitness programs in under-served communities. There are many programs targeting children, but I found few programs that targeted adult women in particular. I feel that healthcare, from a variety of perspectives, is a top issue for our times, and many leaders, including First Lady Michelle Obama have stepped up to the task — but it will take much, much more and grassroots efforts must be a part of the move-ment.
There is hope – as recent studies have shown:
“Regular, moderate physical activity such as brisk walking can increase life expectancy by several years, even for people who are overweight, a new large study shows.
While higher levels of activity were linked to even longer life expectancies, moderate activity was beneficial, according to the study of people ages 40 and older. The benefit of exercise was seen regardless of people’s weight, age, sex and health conditions such as heart disease and cancer.” (http://vitals.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/11/06/14976984-why-working-out-makes-you-live-longer)
If not for yourself – do it for those you love! Given the size of this issue, I consider this project one of the most important things I have ever done – if you feel the same, you can support my efforts here: http://takebackthetrail.com/donate.html