Heart disease touches all types of
people with unforgiving and deadly fingers. Nothing saves you from its
touch not money, fame or power. This is even more apparent after
the untimely heart attack suffered by Gang Starrs Guru on March 1,
2010. Although it has recently been reported that he has come out of
his coma, survived surgery, and issued a short statement, the fact that
a young man of 43 has suffered a heart attack should be a wakeup call
for everyone. You can now mention Mr. Magic, Bill Clinton, Guru, and
Dick Cheney all in the same conversation as they have all been affected
by heart disease. As the face of Hip-Hop matures, the risk for
health related problems increases in our living legends.
Keith Elam, also known as Guru and
one half of the rap group Gang Starr, seemed invincible on the microphone
to my generation of hip-hip heads. Gang Starr came on the scene
in the late 1980s adding flavor to the rap game. Guru took
hip-hop bebop with his first solo album Jazzmatazz Volume 1 which fused
hip-hop and jazz. This album brought together jazz aficionados
such as Donald Byrd, Branford Marsalis, and Ronny Jordan. Although
sales were not as thriving as predicted, it was a solid endeavor and
succeeded at fusing the two genres.
So what is this apparition we call
heart disease that could put Dick Cheney in the same sentence as hip-hop?
Fred Sanford used to call it the big one but it is actually a
number of abnormal conditions that affects the heart. The most common
type of heart disease and the number one cause of heart attacks is coronary
heart disease (CHD), also called coronary artery disease (CAD).
Individuals with CAD have hardened and narrow arteries, the pipes that
supply blood to the muscles of the heart. In order for the heart
to beat efficiently, it must receive nutrients and oxygen via blood.
The average adult heart beats approximately 100,000 times a day.
If the blood vessels are blocked or narrowed, the heart works harder,
increasing strain on the heart which leads to a heart attack.
Both a massive heart attack or heart failure can severely debilitate
and/or kill a person; however, the key is to know what causes these
disorders and how to prevent them.
We cannot change some risk factors
for heart disease – age, gender, race, family history, and previous
history of heart attack or other forms of heart disease. As we
get older, the risk of heart disease increases. This is not to
say that younger people dont have heart attacks, but the chance does
increase with increasing age. Although men have a greater risk
of heart attack than women and they have heart attacks earlier in life,
CAD has become the leading cause of death in American women.
The best way to protect your self is
through knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. It is very important
to know your family history. If your first-degree relatives (mother,
father, sister, or brother) have heart disease, this increases your
chances of having the same problem. The discussion at the dinner
table and family reunion when we are healthy and happy should include
the talk about the state of the familys health. Dont
be afraid to ask about your inheritance what illnesses are in the
Although it has not been disclosed
as to what contributed to Gurus cardiac episode, his loved ones will
want to include this experience in the picture that they present about
their own health. And because he now has known CAD, he will want
to make sure that he continues a close relationship with his doctor,
eat properly, exercise, and take all prescribed medications. Unfortunately
most individuals are on seven to nine medicines after a heart attack.
Alternatives to these treatments are available, but only in consultation
with a doctor who understands supplements and Integrative Medicine.
Thats why it is so important to create a good relationship with a
doctor that you trust. If it is not financially possible for you
to go to the doctor because of a lack of insurance, look for public
health services in your area, health fairs, or free clinics like the
one sponsored by the National Association of Free Clinics that occurred
in New Orleans in November 2009 and that continue to occur across the
Contributing factors that increase
your risk for coronary artery disease include cigarette smoking, the
single most preventable cause of death in the United States. Obesity
is running a close second, and both are major contributors to the health
care cost in our country. Cigarette smokers are two-to-three times
more likely to die from coronary heart disease than nonsmokers. There
is nothing wonderful about smoking and everything damaging about trying
to look cool or imitate what we see others doing. Make the
effort now to stop smoking or encourage those around you to stop before
it is too late.
Furthermore, it is important to get
moving. Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day five to seven days
a week. You can start with walking and then bring it up a notch by dancing
through five or six songs hip-hop has a great beat that will get
you off your couch. Try some of the old school legends you
will enjoy their lyrics and the music is sure to have more than you
head moving. You can also consult with a certified personal trainer.
Whatever you do, just move and keep moving every day.
Youre not in this struggle by yourself.
There is a wealth of information available to you to increase your chances
of preventing coronary artery disease. The American Heart Association
is a major contributor in the effort to raise our awareness about this
disease and provides tools to protect us. Log on to www.americanheart.org
to learn more about heart disease. Dont let heart disease take
you or any more of our living legends away from us.
Dr. Rani Whitfield is a board certified
Family Practice Physician with a Certificate of Added Qualification
in Sports Medicine. He is known as the Hip Hop Doc and combines
music and medicine in the form of comic books and CDs to educate
young people on health issues. If you would like more information
on the Hip Hop Doc go to www.h2doc.com. For a short list of hip-hop artist
and affiliates affected by health issues www.h2doc.com/main/timeline/.