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Making heart health a priority for Black women

STORY: HAMILTON: “I went to my primary care (doctor) and they didn’t find out that I had high blood pressure.”Nichola Hamilton experienced years of headaches and numerous miscarriages.It wasn’t until recently she found out – her high blood pressure could have been a factor.“It put a lot of things into perspective.”Heart disease is a leading cause of death for black women in the US. According to the American Heart Association, 49 percent of Black women over the age of 20 have heart disease but aren’t aware of the risks.While 80 percent of Black Americans have high blood pressure that’s not under control.It’s something Dr. Peggy Roberts sees often.“Black women are coming in – I would say five to six out of 10 women I see have elevated blood pressures.”While doctors are helping those that come in the door, other groups are stepping up to raise awareness.Stephanie Johnson is the founder of Release the Pressure, a partnership of health-care groups and experts trying to work directly with Black women.“We are going in the wrong direction. We have right now in our country, African Americans, Black Americans are 30 percent more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic whites. The numbers are not getting better.”
The on-the-ground effort is being led by people like Gessie Thompson, a nutritionist and founder of organization wants to send out 100,000 free blood pressure measuring kits to Black women by 2027.THOMPSON: “We’re putting the power into our hands, taking it into our own hands. And really excited about this giveaway of the heart health kit and the blood pressure cuff so that women… we’re, we’re closing this gap on us not knowing our numbers and us not having the tools to be in control of our numbers.”Now aware of the problem high blood pressure poses, Nichola Hamilton is keeping the condition top of mind. “Now I started exercising, you know, just trying to be more active and not stress about anything because when I start stressing it reflexes in my blood pressure.”

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