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The ever-growing heart disease epidemic disproportionately impacts Black women. Studies show that 49 percent of African American women, aged 20 and older, are battling with cardiovascular diseases. Women of color across different industries are taking a stand and using their platforms to spread awareness about heart health disparities.

For professional softball player A.J. Andrews, the cause hits home. The Akron Racers player—who became the first woman to win a Rawlings Gold Glove Award—says watching her father struggle with high blood pressure and her grandmother battle with diabetes prompted her to take action to advocate for individuals within the Black community who are battling heart disease. “For me, it was something that was always very important,” she told NewsOne at the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women 2020 Red Dress Collection fashion show. “Spreading awareness about health conditions tied to heart disease is definitely a passion of mine. It truly feels like its directly sourced at the Black community. We need to put the focus on health education. It’s important to explore how to combat things that may be genetic. You have to have the determination to decide that you don’t want to become another statistic. You really have to put your mind to everything that you can do to not succumb to a disease that affects so many of us.” She also added that it is important for influential individuals lend their voices to draw attention to heart health throughout the country.

This Is Us star Lyric Ross echoed Andrews’ sentiments. “Everybody needs to be aware of the effects of heart disease and people in the communities that are impacted by it most need to be lifted up,” she told NewsOne at the fashion show. “It’s scary because its the No. 1 killer of women. If we could create dialogue around the issue and bring people together to address it and take action it would be powerful.”

According to a study released by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, psychological stress is often linked to heart disease in African Americans. Several initiatives have been created to change the narrative surrounding heart health in the Black community including the Know Diabetes by Heart project which is a collaboration between the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association.

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