More so than ever, it is time for us to take care of our heart and overall health. You’ve seen the headlines and heard the stories. Black people are dying at alarming rates across the country due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and continue to be subjected to unjust verbal and physical violence across the country.

Many of us already know that we, as Black people, are more likely to have high blood pressure compared to other racial groups. High blood pressure is the leading risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. These underlying conditions combined with our lived experiences of less access to health care, lower wealth, high density in some of our neighborhoods, plus working courageously in frontline jobs as health care workers, in transportation, at grocery stores, and as retail workers may increase our risk for COVID-19 and having more severe complications. All these factors contribute to chronic stress and “weathering” that have made Black communities more vulnerable to illnesses such as high blood pressure and COVID-19.

This does not mean that we are to blame for contracting COVID-19 nor does it mean that being Black is a risk factor for COVID-19. Dr. Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, Immediate Past President of the American Medical Association (AMA), says the devastating impact of COVID-19 and recent media coverage of ongoing violence against Black people have put a national spotlight on the state of health and inequities in America. As organizations like the AMA and others continue to work at the national and local levels to help improve the health and well-being of our communities, she also notes there are many things we can do together and individually to help ourselves.

“As a community and individually, we have the power to rally our squads and change this story,” said Dr. Harris. “We as Black women are all too familiar with heart disease and its impact on our health and the health and well-being of our families and communities. I want our people to know that being Black is not a risk factor for poor health, and we have an opportunity to seize this moment. It’s in all of us—the power to improve our heart health.”

Here are five ways Dr. Harris suggests you and your squad get started:

  1. Set a Blood Pressure (BP) Goal.

    Connect with your health care professional to schedule an appointment – whether in-person or virtually. Learn where you stand: Know your numbers.

  2. Track your BP Numbers

    Once you know your BP numbers, it’s important to keep track at home. Check out these resources to ensure you know how to properly take your BP and keep a daily log.

  3. Engage Your Squad

    Create a wellness plan to stay healthy with family and friends. Set goals and take free virtual fitness classes together. Use apps to stay connected and share heart healthy recipes. These resources can help!

  4. Stick with It

    Stay connected and motivated by checking in every day. Call, Facetime or text. Do whatever works for you and your squad to achieve your goals and stick with your heart wellness plans.

  5. Take the Release the Pressure Pledge

    Let’s do this together! Join the movement to improve the health and well-being of our communities all across America.