When Linette Payne, mom of R & B singer Chrisette Michele suffered a stroke, it was a very emotional experience for Chrisette and her siblings. Linette has always taught her children to eat healthfully and to take care of their bodies. "It was scary to see someone who has taken such good care of her kids, suffer a stroke," said Chrisette.
After the stroke, her mother was incoherent with slurred speech and memory loss. "My mother is a very smart woman. She has a Master's degree and was a teacher for 25 years, which she put on hold after my college graduation. She then became my manager and due to the nature of this business, she worked and over worked herself and didn't take the time to take care for herself and she suffered a stroke."
According to the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, stroke is the 4th leading cause of death and a leading cause of severe, long-term disability in the United States, and while it affects all Americans, African-Americans are especially vulnerable due to factors such as high rates of elevated blood pressure, diabetes and family history. More than 100,000 African-Americans have a stroke every year and overall, more women die from stroke than men.
Despite the fact that stroke is prevalent in African-Americans, that more women die from stroke than men and that Chrisette's maternal grandmother suffered a stroke and had heart conditions, Linette never thought that this would happen to her.
"Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers suffered from stroke and because of the lack of record keeping in my family and in the Black community, my mother was not fully aware of that history. It's important to keep health records and to know your family history. Prevention is my motto," says Chrisette.
Just like Chrisette, solo artist and actress Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child fame became aware of the importance of knowing her family's health history after her father survived two strokes, one in his 40s and one in his 50s. His mother, who cared for him well into her 80s, suffered from heart problems and a stroke that took her life in 2009.
"Having a family history of stroke definitely made me more proactive," says Michelle. Find out your family history before it's too late! Ask questions, especially around the holidays when everyone gathers together. Ask, "What did auntie and uncle have? If your grandmother had a stroke, ask if her sister or mother had a stroke," she says.
Because stroke is all too familiar to both Chrisette and Michelle, they joined the American Stroke Association's Power To End Stroke cause campaign to use their voices to help enlighten others about stroke. Through Power To End Stroke, the Association embraces and celebrates the culture, energy, creativity and lifestyles of African-Americans and provides information and tools to help make an impact on stroke in the African-American community.
To start your journey toward a long and healthy life, visit http://www.powertoendstroke.org/ and click on My Life Check to learn the state of your health and find information and tools to help you to live your best self. Also, download the Family History Tree and talk to your family about their health history.
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