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I never had health problems when I was growing up. I played sports in high school and competitive intramural volleyball in college. I was active and fit. But then one night in October 2010, I began to experience trouble breathing. My then-husband took me to the emergency room where the doctor said my lungs were inflamed and sent me home. The next day, I went to another ER where the doctor determined that my heart was enlarged and sent me to a cardiologist who confirmed the condition.
I was diagnosed with idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, which is a fancy way of saying that my left ventricle was enlarged and not pumping enough blood. The condition, whose exact cause is unknown in many cases, can lead to heart failure.
I’ve since learned that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, and African-Americans are more likely to die from heart disease than whites. For African-American women like myself, the risk of heart disease is particularly great.
That’s why I’m now also serving as a “Heart Ambassador,” helping to educate and reassure other heart patients. And for people who aren’t patients, I tell them, “If you don’t feel well, see the doctor and find out if anything is wrong. Know your body. Know your heart.”
READ MORE: I’m Fighting with My Heart for My Heart
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