a landscape of mountains, one is a woman with a tree as her heart

For the Women

American Heart Month has gone, however, the fight continues. Those of us that live with heart disease and/or knows someone who does, understand its significance. Awareness and advocacy efforts extend far beyond February.

I know my body and trust my instincts

As a Congenital Heart Disease survivor, heart health awareness is ingrained in the fiber of my being. My keen sense of awareness and the unspoken relationship I have with my heart tells me when something is wrong. I’ve learned to listen to it. I know my body and trust my instincts. I accept the responsibility of giving my heart a voice.

My candor was not innate

My candor was not innate. It developed through the process of watching my parents advocate on my behalf as a child. I witnessed them ask difficult questions, demand answers and challenge a system inclined to believe that medical professionals are all-knowing. Please understand that I am not devaluing the knowledge and experience of medical professionals. I am simply stating that my parents laid the foundation which culminated in the embracing of my personal truth.

No one else resides in my body

I discern that I am omniscient when it comes to how I feel. Whether it is a pain, a palpitation, shortness of breath, severe fatigue, or any other symptom I experience, it matters. My intuition tells me when something is faulty. No one else resides in my body, nor do they experience what I endure. This “awakening” has led me to become a passionate advocate for women, people of color, and heart disease.

To fortify their spirits

To pretend that gender, racial, and ethnic biases in healthcare are non-existent is to contribute to the problem at hand. As a Black woman, I have experienced bias. Persistent and stern when my heart, overall health and rights are concerned, I don’t allow anyone to dismiss my experience or diminish my existence. I comprehend that there are people who lack the knowledge and/or confidence to push back. It becomes my place as a woman and an advocate to stand in the gap. To teach women that their voices matter. To fortify their spirits and confirm their right to health equity.

Disparities in care and outcomes

Historically, heart disease and cardiac emergencies were viewed from a limited perspective. It was thought to be an illness that was specific to men, overweight individuals, and the elderly. All the time, women were dying in vast numbers. The American Heart Association reports that Heart Disease is the number one killer of women. Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to suffer or die from a heart or stroke-related emergency.

Go Red for Women

The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement resonates with me for several reasons. First, there is great reward in highlighting women’s heart health and teaching them to be vigilant in words and deeds. Women are most often charged with caring for their families. We are innate nurturers and because of our desire and willingness to care for others, we often neglect ourselves in the process.

Front and center

The Go Red for Women movement places women front and center, not to exclude men but to be an inclusive force for women and all who love them. The movement educates and uplifts the individuals who gave life to others by birth, love and/or service, that were otherwise neglected. Secondly, there is power in numbers. When women unite for a cause we are fierce, fearless and dynamic. By encouraging one another we spread hope. Energies align and change ensues.

Finally, I genuinely believe that women are the cornerstones of our families and communities. When a woman changes her lifestyle her family and community benefit. When women are taught to value their lives, make healthier choices and be vigilant with their care, lives are saved. Preserving life through education, empowerment, opportunity, and action is the goal.

Thanks for being amazing

To all women, thanks for being amazing. You light up the world. Know that you are worth the love and care you give to others. You are an integral piece of your family and community. Without you, beautiful things will perish. Love yourself, live well and “Go Red.” Woman, You Are.

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