AMARILLO, Texas (KVII) — February is the month we celebrate black history but it is also Heart Health Month, which is dedicated to bringing awareness to heart disease. Heart disease and stroke is the number one killer of women, especially in African Americans.
Johnnie Savage has struggled with heart disease for more than 30 years. Savage recalls the first time her doctor diagnosed her with the disease.
"He tested it and said you're young but you still have a heart problem," said Savage.
Savage was in her thirties at the time. She suffered with a rapid heart beat.
"He said you know you have the kind that can trigger off and you can die just like that," said Savage.
Savage explains the experience as something that just crept up on her one day.
"It just happened real quick, I just start sweating and then I had a head ache, and then all of a sudden I just would pass out," said Savage.
From that point on, Savage had to get stents put in her heart, a defibrillator and a pace maker.
Amarillo Heart Group Cardiologist, Dr. Joaquin Martinez tells ABC 7 theses cases are connected to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
"We see that there is a mark difference in how many African American women have to deal with high blood pressure and actually, if you compare women-to-women, African American women with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart failure due to high blood pressure," said Martinez.
According to the Go Red for Women website, 50,000 African American women die from cardiovascular diseases each year. Martinez said heart disease can be genetic, which was the case for Johnnie's family.
"My mom had heart trouble and my daddy did too but they didn't have this kind of of trouble," said Savage.
By trouble, she means things did not get to the worst level.
Only 1-in-5 African Americans believe they are personally at risk.
Martinez said getting checked out early can help prevent heart disease.
"An attention to basic things such as your blood pressure , your cholesterol and to kind of re-work your life to what is a healthier status with your diet," said Martinez. "Your physical activity and pay attention to what your body is telling you."
As for Johnnie, she continues to exercise and take steps towards a healthier life.
"Keep praying that things will get better, hopefully they will, I don't know for sure," said Savage.