aunya Stewart woke up feeling strangely
hot. Her body felt taut, as though she would
pop if someone were to touch her.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh my God, I’m
having a heart attack,’” she said.
Taunya called her mom to take her to
the hospital, which was 40 minutes away from her home
in Mendenhall, Mississippi. They stopped at a convenience
store on the way, so she could buy and take some aspirin.
(The American Heart Association advises that people call 911
when experiencing warning signs of a heart attack.)
Once they reached the hospital, Taunya learned her blood
pressure was 226/154 mmHg – a hypertensive crisis. If
left untreated, such an emergency could result in severe
consequences, including stroke and heart attack.
“The doctor told me I had literally run from heart disease
as long as I could and that it was finally catching up with
me,” said Taunya. She was told she would likely require
medication for the rest of her life to keep her blood pressure
Taunya, 42, chafed at the idea. She began researching how
she could lower her blood pressure through lifestyle changes.
“I can remember growing up and seeing this box my
grandmother had full of different medications and thinking, ‘I
don’t want that to be me,’” she said.
Taunya had known her family history put her at risk. Heart
disease had taken a toll on her family; several members
had high blood pressure. They are fairly typical. Nearly one
in three Americans has high blood pressure, a condition
sometimes called the “silent killer” because it often doesn’t
have any symptoms. Among adults with high blood pressure,
45. 6 percent do not have it under control.
Some of Taunya’s other family members had heart attacks
at a young age.
She had tried to avoid the same fate by keeping fit, but
her weight climbed as her metabolism slowed down in her
late 30s. She did join a gym and local walking group, but she
wasn’t consistent about going.
But after her hypertensive crisis in October of 2015, she
made significant changes.
Taunya added more lean meats and seafood to her diet
and is careful to drink plenty of water.
“I’m not perfect, and if I want something, I’ll have it, but
only in moderation,” she said.
Taunya also recommitted to exercise, increasing her
30-minute walks several times a week to an hour, shifting
between walking, yoga and CrossFit.
Girl Trek, a national movement to encourage black women
to walk together as a first step to increase physical activity,
offered Taunya local support and accountability.
American Heart Association’s Go Red Get Fit Facebook
group has offered her an important online outlet to learn
from and inspire others by posting her walks or blood
Today, Taunya takes her blood pressure medication, but
believes that her lifestyle changes have made a difference in
its effectiveness. She is working on losing additional weight in
hopes of decreasing the amount of medication she needs.
Life Is Why
By American Heart Association News