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New Book: Women & Heart Disease: The Real Story

Black women were too busy chasing their own dreams to notice how heart disease had silently skyrocketed in 1988, the year that balloons and confetti streamed down in the Louisiana Super Dome in New Orleans after George H. W. Bush won the Republican nomination, and chose Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana as his running mate.

Black women were too busy to pay attention to heart disease’s warning signs because they were quite busy in 1988. For example, Barbara C. Harris became the first female bishop of color in the Episcopal Church. Pearl Bailey won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1988. And Judith Jamison became the head of the Alvin Ailey Dancers after its founder died the next year.

While cardiologist Dr. Jacqueline Eubany does not pause to dwell on these historical facts in her debut book, “Women and Heart Disease: The Real Story,” which received a Pinnacle Book Achievement Award. She does say heart disease in women skyrocketed in 1988 and she offers prevention tips in her new book.

But the point is in 1988, more women of color began to develop heart disease, as Eubany notes in her new book. Busy, ambitious, upwardly mobile women began to experience historic levels of stress, isolation, and psychic pressure the year that Bush ran against Robert Dole and Pat Robertson. Neither Dole nor Robertson won enough votes in local primary elections to defeat Bush. And neither did presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, who received about 25 percent of the votes in local primary elections. Jackson lost the Democratic Party’s nomination.

While Eubany does not dwell on the political facts, she takes a hard look at heart disease in women in her new book. “Heart disease is a serious matter,” Eubany said in her new book. “Heart disease is the leading cause of death of American women, killing more than a third of them … The National Vital Statistics Report 2016, reports heart disease killed 289,758 women in 2013 – that’s about 1 in every 4 female deaths.”

Eubay continued, “As a cardiologist, I’m seeing patients’ one-at- a-time … if they control their risk factors, they can reduce chances of getting heart disease by up to 80 percent,” she said in a recent interview in Electronic Urban Report. “Only 54 percent of women recognize that heart disease is the number one killer, according to CDC.”

Black women, in other words, may have taken flight like many women in 1988 and become unwitting targets for heart disease in 1988. But that was about 30 years ago. Black women can now take steps to reduce heart disease. In short, these women can change their lifestyles. First, reduce loneliness, a 2017 report by the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference noted. Black women, according to this recent report, were about twice as likely to report loneliness.

“African-American women at risk for cardiovascular disease have unique predictors of loneliness,” said Karen Saban, Loyola University Chicago School of Nursing associate dean for research, who authored the report. “Financial stress and subjective social status –as compared to non-Hispanic white women” can cause stress that leads to heart disease.

Black women, in other words, can end up with heart disease because they are lonely. During the Loyola University School of Nursing study, about 50 women of color completed questionnaires on loneliness, depression symptoms, financial stress, social support and resilience. Black women ranked their perceived subjective social status on the social ladder. Black women were almost three times as likely as white women to report financial stress, and about two and a half times more likely to report perceived lower social status, and less reliable social support.

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Previous research showed loneliness increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and poor health outcomes. While the University Chicago School of Nursing interviewed 50 African-American and 49 non-Hispanic white postmenopausal women. Black women, according to this study, were twice as likely to report that they were lonely when compared to their white counterparts.

The second way to reduce heart disease is to change your lifestyle. A recent North Carolina State University study said loneliness not only amps up heart disease but adds new problems. “Among African-American women, 50 percent are obese, and 78 percent are overweight,” the report noted. “African-American women have lower levels of physical activity and higher levels of cardiovascular health risk compared to other population groups … Researchers have determined that awareness and acceptance are necessary first steps in controlling and managing CVD risk factors … Over half did not exercise regularly.”

This means the same way women opened their eyes wide to possibilities in 1988. These women must now open their eyes wide to the risks that come from heart disease. About 80 percent of the risk comes from obesity, lack of physical activity, and high blood pressure. But all of these factors can be managed with lifestyle changes and risk control.

In other words, this is where Eubay’s new book comes in. “Your lifestyle is so important in terms of developing a healthy heart style,” she explained. “Stress, being overweight, high blood pressure, and smoking are all factors that contribute to heart disease.”

But you can control all of these risk factors, Eubay said. A woman can significantly reduce heart disease by developing a lifestyle that creates a healthy heart. “A diet low in saturated fats, using olive oil or canola oil, eating salmon and fish, and a low salt diet (no more than one teaspoon per day) is good,” will control heart disease risks, she said. “The Mediterranean Diet has shown to decrease your risk of heart disease.”

Oh yes, here’s another tip. Don’t drop your head on your pillow at night and try to solve the world’s problems. Instead, try to get enough sleep. Try to feel peaceful. Don’t add stress to the mix.

“Stress can put you over the edge if you are high-risk and cause you to have a heart attack,” Eubay said in her new book. “Go see your doctor once or twice a year to be checked for hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes. You can prevent a heart attack from happening.”

To purchase Eubany’s book, go to www.amazon.com or visit her website: www.womenandheartdiseasebook.com.

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