Heart 2 Heart

A discussion about the health of African American women

Diane Xavier | 11/11/2013, 9:18 a.m.
Every minute, a woman will die in this country due to heart disease and according to Dallas cardiologist Dr. G. ...
Debra Peek Haynes discusses the heart health of Black women. Christopher Morgan

The Dallas Examiner

Every minute, a woman will die in this country due to heart disease and according to Dallas cardiologist Dr. G. Mark Jenkins of the Methodist Dallas Medical Center, African American women have a higher risk of getting heart disease with 47 percent of them having the illness in this country.

Because of these statistics, first lady Debra Peek-Haynes of Friendship-West Baptist decided it was time to get the community involved in preventing this health crisis.

Haynes hosted a Heart 2 Heart conference at her church last month, where her husband is the senior pastor, in order to provide the African American community the knowledge and tools to live a healthier lifestyle.

Over 500 Black women participated in the conference. Guest speakers included Jenkins, personal trainer Ava Combs, gospel artist Angela Blair, comedian Ajai Sanders and body language expert Linda Clemons.

“There is a high rate of African Americans dying from heart disease and I wanted to give them some substance of what they could do together to actually help heal our bodies so we don’t have to suffer much,” Haynes said. “Heart disease is something you don’t have to have and it’s not necessary or normal.”

Haynes said she has been working on this project for a few years and finally secured some funding from sponsors within the last eight months.

Jenkins told the audience his goal was to educate them about the realities of heart health in the Black community.

“One out of two of you sitting here today will succumb to heart disease,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that good health insurance doesn’t equal good health. Good health insurance will not cook for you or walk for you. Good health insurance will not get you to the hospital when you have chest pain. So that is where the dichotomy lies.”

Jenkins encouraged the group to take personal responsibility for their health.

“Because if you don’t eat right, you don’t exercise or walk right, and you don’t do the things to care for yourself, then you are still going to be sick,” he said. “I don’t care if you have Blue Cross, AARP, or you get into one of these health exchanges, it won’t change the fact that African American women in this country are 60 percent more likely to do no physical activity and 75 percent of you are overweight.”

Jenkins said that African Americans not only have the most obesity, but also the most inactivity levels. He encouraged the audience to change their habits and to do preventable things for their health such as going to their doctor, identifying their doctor and knowing what their blood pressure is. He also encouraged them to walk 45 minutes a day.

“Events like what Debra is putting together are so important for better health,” Jenkins said.

Haynes is passionate about healthy living and was motivated when five different doctors told her 22 years ago that she would have a difficult time conceiving.

Haynes followed the advice of a holistic gynecologist who advised her to change her diet for a healthier lifestyle. After changing her diet and following the advice of her doctor, Haynes was able to conceive and had her daughter Abeni, who is now 20 years old.