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Heart Health

What’s Your Heart Got to Do With It?

Angela Basset smiling
Angela Basset smiling

You may know Angela Bassett for her Golden Globe-winning portrayal of Tina Turner in the biopic What’s Love Got to Do With It, but this actress is passionate about her heart for reasons that go far deeper than love.

After Angela Bassett’s mother passed ‌away from heart failure as a complication from her type 2 diabetes, she teamed up with the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association on their joint initiative, Know Diabetes by Heart.

Do you find that people are surprised to find out that diabetes dramatically increases their risk for heart disease?

I don’t know if they’re surprised, because it makes sense when you think about it, but I don’t think people really think about it until they develop heart disease or have a stroke. That’s how it was with my mother. We were dealing with the daily management of type 2 diabetes and trying to make her comfortable, and heart failure wasn’t on our radar. Research shows that people living with type 2 diabetes are often more concerned with complications like losing their eyesight or a limb than about heart disease or stroke. But the reality is that people living with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to develop and die from cardiovascular disease. Only about half of people aged 45 and older with type 2 diabetes understand their increased risk for developing heart disease or have discussed their risk with their doctor.

How does your mother’s history with type 2 diabetes and heart disease impact your family today?

Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “When you know better, you do better.” My Uncle Ralph, who is my mother’s brother and our family patriarch, is living with type 2 diabetes and I’ve talked to him about the connection to heart disease and helped him talk with his doctor about how to reduce his risk. When we get together as a family, we make sure to support his nutritional needs — it’s good, healthy food for those of us without type 2 diabetes, too! Instead of sitting around after we eat, we’ll go for a walk or even have a dance party. Being healthy really can be fun and it’s fun to be healthy together.

What are some things people can do to manage their risk for heart disease?

All of us should look at our lifestyles and see if there are ways to improve our heart health, like increasing physical activity, eating better, quitting smoking, or managing stress. Next, know and manage your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood glucose, and body weight. If you’ve been prescribed medication, please, take it like you’re supposed to! It surprises me how many people don’t take their medications because they “feel fine” or take extra because they think more is better or can offset an unhealthy decision. This is a dangerous game to play. Please, take medication like your doctor prescribes! Finally, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. 

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