‘I am a miracle’: Woman describes surviving heart disease as it impacts Black women at alarming rate

ORLANDO, Fla. — On the final day of Black History Month, we are getting real about a silent killer among women: heart disease.

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It impacts Black women at an alarming rate.

Bridgette Johnson describes surviving heart disease as the most difficult time in her life.

She’s one of the 49% of African American women, aged 20 and older, who have heart disease.

“I am a miracle,” she said.

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Dr. Rohit Bhatheja is Johnson’s physician. She said that throughout the pandemic, Black women have been disproportionally impacted by heart disease.

“Almost 50,000 black women die of cardiovascular disease,” Bhatheja said. “The pandemic has worsened that problem.”

In 2014, Johnson was rushed to the hospital with pulmonary pneumonia in both her lungs, then diagnosed with two blood clots.

Bhatheja was brought in to place a stent.

“We evaluate you as a person and not as a number,” Bhatheja said.

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Bhatheja said that’s how you overcome the social determinants of health care. Things like education, income and occupation play a role in in health care disparities, lack of awareness and access to care.

Bhatheja said that women of color are under an unspoken pressure.

“They don’t have time for themselves because they’re taking care of multi-generational families. They’re the caregivers. They put themselves last,” Bhatheja said. “Hypertension, diabetes, overweight, cigarette smoking are traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease, unfortunately are higher in Black women.”

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The American Heart Association said researchers have found there may be a gene that makes African Americans more sensitive to the effects of salt, which in turn increases their risk of developing issues like high blood pressure.

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