February 18, 2011]——Veteran host on ABC, Barbara Walters, recently aired her show on heart disease called, “A Matter Of Life and Death.” She interviewed notable celebrities who’s heart had run into a bit of trouble and needed surgeries. Not to make light of a serious subject but comparing notes on their types of heart valves were comedian Robin Williams, who loves to crack jokes about his ordeal; President Clinton, Regis Pilbin, David Letterman and Charlie Rose. Barbara herself had undergone surgery to replace a faulty valve. With the exception of the host, the guests were all men, yet heart disease is the leading killer of women.
Missing from the line-up was Star Jones, ex co-host of Ms. Walters talkshow, The View. Jones also had undergone open heart surgery about a year ago. We all know Star left The View under a hailstorm of drama and contention but as Jones said in a recent interview with ‘BlackVoices,’ this was a missed opportunity by Ms. Walters not to include her, for this is bigger than any cat fight: this is really about life and death, especially among ‘minority’ women.
As I said earlier, heart disease is now the number one killer among women and according to the National Coalition for Women With Heart Disease, African American women are 35 percent more likely to die of heart disease than Caucasian women while Hispanic women face this deadly disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.
These are staggering statistics and Star Jones or some other African American women would have raised the much needed attention and exposure the disease deserves. We hear an awful lot about breast cancer, which we rightfully should but a heavy spotlight is also necessary for this silent killer.
Why are African American women at greater risk for the disease? No one has given an exact reason but a myriad of factors can be the cause., says TNCWHD. Poverty; quality and disparity in healthcare; obesity; high cholesterol, high blood pressure, lack of exercise and lack of information or mistrust of healthcare providers, can all be in the contributing mix.
One of the reasons that stood out to me is lack of information, something that is easily remedied. Studies show that 68 percent of Caucasian women know heart disease is the number one killer of women but only 31 percent of African American women and 29 percent of Hispanic women have this knowledge.
A leading author and doctor in this field, Dr. Jennifer H. Mieres, Director of Cardiology at the New York School of Medicine and co-author of the book, “Heart Smart For Black Women and Latina,” say one important way to stem the tide of ignorance about this disease is for patients to “develop a partnership with their doctors” to facilitate “effective communication.”
This can greatly eliminate the cases that go undetected until it is too late. Improved diets can also go a long way and modifying or cutting out entirely traditional and cultural ways of eating: such as frequently fried foods and high fat and cholesterol content, may be an important step towards heart health.
Awareness is key, prevention is paramount so please pass on the word.