Heart failure is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While it is commonly associated with older adults, it is important to recognize that heart failure can also occur in younger individuals, including young Black women. By increasing awareness and promoting early detection, we can take proactive steps to manage and prevent heart failure.
Understanding Heart Failure
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently is compromised. It can occur due to various factors, including weakened heart muscles, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, heart attack, and other cardiovascular diseases.
In young Black women, several factors contribute to an increased risk of heart failure, including genetics, nutrition, and poor lifestyle habits. According to the American Heart Association, 59 percent of Black women ages 20 and older have cardiovascular disease.
Listening to Your Body and Education
Chest pain? Heart palpitations? Chest pressure? You can’t keep pushing it aside and throwing “I’m just stressed” on top of it. It’s better to see a healthcare provider to be sure than to risk a potentially life-threatening occurrence. It’s vital to understand and educate yourself about the heart’s signs of trouble.
Thirty-nine percent of Black women are aware that chest pain can be a sign of a heart attack. However, only 33 percent recognize that pain spreading to the shoulder, neck, or arms are also symptoms of a potential heart attack. Shortness of breath, sudden dizziness, fatigue, and nausea could also be symptoms of a heart attack.
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of heart failure is essential for early intervention and appropriate treatment. While symptoms may vary among individuals, the following signs should raise concern:
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity or while lying flat.
- Persistent coughing or wheezing, often accompanied by white or pink mucus.
- Fatigue and weakness, even with minimal exertion.
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, or abdomen.
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat.
- Dizziness or fainting spells.
- Sudden weight gain or loss
Look at the Family Tree
Have a discussion with both sides of your family about any history of cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, and heart failure. It’s easier to initially inquire with your immediate family.
As you gather information on your immediate, check the lower leaves of the family tree, the great-grandparents, and distant cousins. Take note of when family members developed heart diseases, heart failures, and heart attacks.
The clearer the family history, the better your physician can help map out the risk of heart failure and cardiovascular diseases. If you discover