Heart Disease Help for Women

More women die of heart disease than the four next most common causes of death combined

This article was originally published in BLAC's March 2011 issue

anice Ford’s father died of a heart attack. Her mother survived a stroke. Her brother has a stent in his heart.

Like her mother and brother, and her father before he passed away, Ford has type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

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When she received an email about the My Life Check Makeover, a 12-week program that provides eight women with free health services from a cardiologist, a nutritionist and a personal trainer to improve heart health, she faxed her application twice to make sure it was received.

“I have a chance to reverse what I see in my family, and I had to take it,” says the 51-year-old Northville resident.

Ford was selected to participate in the program, which began Feb. 24. My Life Check Makeover is an initiative of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign, created to promote women’s heart health.

According to the American Heart Association, more women die of heart disease than the four next most common causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer. Diabetes and high blood pressure can be precursors to heart disease.

“The risk factors for heart disease are diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and family history,” says Dr. Monique Butler, medical director of Corporate Health Promotions at Harper Hospital. “You can control all of those things except for family history, so why not do it?”

Ford began My Life Check Makeover with a goal of getting back to about 150 pounds. Although she was not obese, at 169 pounds she still was overweight. In the first five weeks of the program, she lost 10 pounds.

“She is doing a great job,” says Dr. Joan Crawford, Ford’s cardiologist. “The goal is for them to create life- long habits, and we’re showing them how to do that.”

For instance, the participants took a trip to the grocery store where they were taught to make food better choices. Ford is now bypassing potato chips to grab sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes.

“I want to live, and be able to really live my life and not just sit on the sideline,” says Ford, who used to be a high school cheerleader and gymnast.

“[Not] sweating out your hair cannot be the top priority in our lives,” says Butler. “As Black women, we have to take better care of ourselves.”

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