When Dr. LaPrincess Brewer talks to African-American women about heart health risks, it helps that she looks like her target audience, she said.
African-American women have the highest death rate from cardiovascular disease than any other ethnic group, Brewer, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, said Sunday to a congregation of mostly African Americans at Christ's Church of the Jesus Hour.
Most African-American women aren’t aware it’s the No. 1 killer of their demographic.
Bringing her message to the congregation made sense, Brewer said.
"Why not go to the place where everyone finds their sense of refuge?" she said.
It was also at church, where she found her calling to medicine.
Growing up in Charlotte, N.C., Brewer saw women she looked up to and family friends who were affected by cardiovascular or related health issues.
"It’s important to me because I’ve seen so many people affected by heart disease in the church," she said.
Brewer is leading the FAITH! (Fostering African-American Improvement in Total Health) initiative to promote healthy lifestyles and choices in faith communities.
The word "heart" appears in the Bible more than 800 times, Brewer told the congregation Sunday.
"Our hearts are not only important spiritually, but also physically," Brewer said.
Women wore red dresses or suits and men wore either red ties, red shirts or both to mark the day.
Members of the congregation also shared their stories.
The Rev. Carrie Simms said she has made small changes to her lifestyle and has seen some of her risk factors decline.
"It was just small, little changes," she said, adding that she bought an air fryer for cooking.
"My chicken tastes just as good, my catfish tastes just as good," she said. "I just don’t have all that grease."
Jackie L. Johnson urged members to pay attention to their bodies. Johnson had a valve replacement about 37 years ago. Last year, she began to feel short of breath and had another valve replacement.
"Whatever you feel that’s different, you need to check it out," Johnson said.
Brewer said risk factors for cardiovascular disease include high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, age and other factors, including a top contributing factor everyone can control.
"Don’t smoke," Brewer said. "If you do smoke, quit."