Lessons from Bigmama: Pay Attention to the Signs

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By Terri Floyd

When I think of a strong woman, Bigmama comes to mind. She’s the matriarch of the family, the one that holds the glue. Whatever problem you may have, just go to her and she can fix it. Why? Well, because she’s a "strong Black woman." If we're not careful, society will have us believing that Black women don’t need anyone. And because many of us aspire to be strong Black women, the stressors of taking care of everyone else causes a negative effect on our mental and physical health.

Unfortunately, I used to buy into the hype of being a strong Black woman, until it hit home. An ER visit for some chest pains turned into a life changing diagnosis. We were informed that she had several mini strokes, had congestive heart failure, heart disease and would need triple bypass heart surgery and a valve replacement. Through her health challenges, I’ve realized that the "Strong Black woman" trope needs to die, because it is literally killing us.

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease & stroke is the number one killer in women, and stroke disproportionately affects African-Americans. Cardiovascular diseases kill nearly 50,000 African-American women annually. And 49% Of African-American women ages 20 and older, have heart disease.

Lessons I’ve learned from my Bigmama:

  1. Know your risk factors! In order to love others, you must first love yourself.

  2. Reduce your risks! Pay attention to the signs. Exercise regularly and choose a healthy diet (eat more vegetables and less processed foods).

  3. Pride can destroy you! Never become so burdened down where you can’t ask or are too ashamed to ask for help!

  4. Pray, Laugh and Love often, each day above ground is precious. Make memories.

  5. Advocate for yourself! Do not suffer in silence! Talk to your doctor, get regular check-ups.

  6. Document your medications; know what you’re taking so you’re not being over medicated.

  7. Attend your loved ones appointments, ask questions even if they won’t ask.

Thankfully my grandmother is still alive and well! And because of her, I’ve learned that I must prioritize taking care of myself.

Terri Floyd, MS is a Little Rock native and wears many hats. She’s a graduate of Philander Smith College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, University of Arkansas Little Rock with a Post Graduate Certificate in Gerontology (Aging Studies) and a Master of Science degree in Health Sciences with an emphasis in Health Education and Health Promotion. She has extensive years of working experience in education, mental health, public health and research fields by working as an Intervention Specialist/Mental Health Paraprofessional (MHPP), Autism Behavior Line Therapist, Program Assistant and Research Assistant. Follow on her Twitter: @TeeFloTweets and on IG: @TeeFloSpeaks. FB Business Page: TF Solutions Center, LLC.