According to the American Heart Association, the prevalence of high blood pressure among Black people in the United States is among the highest in the world. Rapper and activist Killer Mike has been very proactive when it comes to his heart health, after being told that he wouldn't live much longer if he didn't change things up. He recently hosted an event in Atlanta to better educate folks on the disease and prevention.

"When my physician told me what I was doing to my body, it brought me back to hearing about it in high school from my biology teacher, Mrs. Smith. She told us that the body's function is to stay alive," Killer Mikes shares. "When you're told something like that as a teenager, it's easy to blow it off, but when my doctor told me that later in life, that was the first thing that came to mind. So, I told myself that I better get up and take it seriously now."

In 2021 alone, more than 930,000 deaths in the United States were due to cardiovascular disease (CVD), which equates to 1 in every 4 deaths. Although mortality rates have increased across all demographic groups, Black adults continue to be disproportionately affected.

Implementing healthier habits into his routine, the community leader shares that he now makes it a habit to get to the gym at least 3 times each week—often with his wife by his side. He also cut out sodas as well as avoiding processed foods as often as he can.

Rapper Killer Mike (center) poses with Robert Rushing, Toya Johnson-Rushing, Dr. Melissa Burroughs and yogi Lauren Williams during Live to the Beat event. Image: courtesy of Live to the Beat.

In collaboration with Rock The Bells and the CDC Foundation, the Live to the Beat event provided a multisensory space where community members and health experts empowered the local community to come together, take action, and lower their risk of CVD. Dr. Melissa Burroughs, a cardiologist with Wellstar Health System, was also in attendance.

We asked Dr. Burroughs to offer a few tips that we as Black people can implement to prioritze our heart health.

Prioritize a healthy lifestyle

"Removing processed food from your diet is the first step to optimizing your diet," explains Dr. Burroughs. "It will remove much of the excess salt, sugar and fat."

 She also emphasizes that exercising 30-minutes per day and getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night are key.

Be an advocate for yourself and your family

Dr. Burroughs says to ask questions of your physician and if you are not satisfied with the response, seek a second opinion. 

"A competent physician will not take offense to a second opinion," she shares.

Know your family history

"Many diseases are hereditary, and knowing your family history can help your physician optimize your prevention according to your risk," explains Dr. Burroughs.