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Patrice Harris Wants Black Women To Prioritize Heart Health

Dr. Patrice Harris is an American psychiatrist and the first African-American woman to be elected president of the American Medical Association. She was elected the 174th president in June 2019. Harris is a native of West Virginia and received her Doctor of Medicine degree at West Virginia. University.

She has been doing the acclaimed work of addressing each layer to lessen the number of Black women dying of cardiovascular diseases and increase the number of Black women who are well-versed in their own heart health. How? Well, sharing her own story has been a key first step.

If we want to be here for a long time and enjoy every moment, then tending to our health is a critical habit we must form. More specifically, we must be thinking about our heart health. It’s no secret that Black women suffer from some of the highest cases of cardiovascular disease – nearly half of us, 20 years old and older. It’s also no secret that for many years, Black women were left out of the heart health conversation because it focused almost solely on men.

That’s a problem with many layers.

“As a physician, I was having chest pain one day but because I just didn’t associate heart attack with a woman I didn’t even think that I could be having a heart attack,” Dr. Harris shares on a recent episode of the Yes, Girl! podcast.

Dr. Harris’s experience helped her to realize that sometimes women experience heart health issues differently from men.

“We have to be educated about the symptoms. Women often experience different symptoms. We have nausea, we have vomiting, we have pain radiating down our arm. Over 50,000 of us die every year from cardiovascular disease. But in surveys African-American women don’t always put their heart health as a part of their overall health,” says Dr. Harris.

In partnership, The American Medical Association and ESSENCE have crafted a nuanced health campaign, “Release The Pressure” that specifically engages Black women with informational, educational, and encouraging content.

“Everyone knows where our heart is but I think we should talk about the fact that the heart is connected to all the blood vessels in our body. And that system makes sure that our body gets the oxygen and the other nutrients we need to be healthy and to be well.”


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