Tuesday, February 13, 2018
I recently had my first EKG and echocardiogram following a occurrence of high blood pressure two weeks following the birth of my 3rd child. I consider myself lucky that I received the prognosis that my hypertension was likely temporary and that there is no underlying heart condition.
For others with a more concerning prognosis, they may be diagnosed with peripartum or postpartum cardiomyopathy. It is a rare type of heart disease that occurs during pregnancy or immediately after delivery. The condition weakens the heart muscle and causes the heart to become enlarged. As a result, the heart can’t pump blood properly to the rest of the body.
According to the American Heart Association, this heart condition affects about 1,000 to 1,300 women in the United States each year. Women usually receive a diagnosis during the last month of their pregnancies or within five months of delivery. Black women are particularly at risk.
A 2017 Report From the American Heart Association stated that among Americans, an average of one person dies from cardiovascular disease (CVD) every 40 seconds. Coronary heart disease (CHD) accounts for the majority of CVD deaths, followed by stroke and heart failure.
Additionally, the National Heart Association adds that heart disease is the leading killer for all Americans, but in African Americans, heart disease develops earlier and deaths from heart disease are higher than in white Americans. In recent years, the life expectancy of African Americans was 3.4 years shorter than that of whites (75.5 vs. 78.9 years, respectively), largely attributable to having a higher rate of heart attacks, sudden cardiac arrest, heart failure and strokes than white Americans.
Since learning that my heart was healthy, I have learned that several family members and friends of mine who were relatively young, died of heart-related illnesses. This saddens me.
It's our social responsibility to educate ourselves and others about our heart health. We can start by having yearly physical exams, regular exercise, good nutrition and providing advocacy for adequate culturally-competent care by healthcare providers.