Marcos Restrepo, Closing the Gap Program Manager, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Broward County
May is National Stroke Awareness month. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 130,000 Americans each year (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). That statistics should make you pay attention. African Americans are more likely to have a stroke than any other racial or ethnic groups. Many factors may affect a person’s risk for stroke including high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, age, family health history, and more. The good news is many strokes are preventable and treatable.
Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Broward County (HMHB of Broward) Closing the Gap nutrition and physical fitness education programs aim to bring awareness to health issues such as stroke. Closing the Gap is funded by the Florida Department of Health, Office of Minority Health and Equity.
High blood pressure leads to stroke and Blacks ages 35-64 are 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than whites. Despite the fact that death rates have decreased up to 25 percent among African Americans in the last 15 years, a recent study found that Blacks in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are more likely to live with or die from conditions that typically occur at older ages in whites, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Risk factors for some diseases, such as high blood pressure, may go unnoticed and untreated during these early years (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
You may know someone, a relative, a friend or a co-worker who has suffered from high blood pressure and even died due to complications stemming from this condition. Many people struggle to get quality healthcare or they do not have access to health services. Reducing these disparities is a long and hard social and political battle.
What can you do now?
1.) Start with education: get to know your health history and risk. High blood is very common in African Americans and is a main risk factor for stroke. Eating too much salt and sodium can increase your blood pressure, putting you at higher risk for a stroke. Sickle Cell Anemia is the most common genetic disorder in African Americans and can lead to a stroke. Strokes can occur when sickle-shaped cells block blood vessels to the brain. Obesity and diabetes are prevalent in African Americans and increases the risk of a stroke. (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)
2.) Make lifestyle changes:
- Any health and prevention plan must include healthy eating. HMHB of Broward Closing the Gap program has a master’s prepared nutritionist on staff that provides group nutrition classes in Broward County at no cost to participants. These classes help families to plan and prepare healthy meals on a budget.
- Lifestyle change must include physical activities. “If you don’t know the end game you won’t change, but through education and practice people see the results,” says Cheryl Monique, Physical Fitness Co-ordinator, HMHB of Broward.
Cheryl coordinates two groups of women who are on a free 12 week physical fitness program. Both groups have dis-played remarkable changes in mindset around nutrition and fitness. Those women are applying what they have learned to the way they eat, and how they feed their families. They are implementing exercise regimens in their regular routine, and have significantly increased endurance, muscular strength and range of motion. Additionally, they are forming close-knit bonds and raising their babies together.
Cheryl admits that her own family history pushed her to work with people and contribute to their health. “In my family one side Puerto Rican and the other African American we were healthy on a budget: boxed cheese, 99 cent McDonalds.” This type of food put her family at risk for heart disease, kidney failure, and diabetes.
Over the last two years almost 500 people have participated in HMHB of Broward’s nutrition education sessions and approximately100 people have participated in our free physical fitness groups. HMHB of Broward wants to reach more Broward County residents so together we build a healthier community.
Let’s spread awareness of what we can control to stay healthy, use the services and resources that are available, and take personal action to live healthier and support others to do the same.
For more information on Closing the Gap services contact Marcos Restrepo at (954) 765-0550 or Email: email@example.com Website: hmhbbroward.org