Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Beating Heart Disease

I am overjoyed about competing in the Golden Gloves at 178 (Novice). The first thing I’m committed to doing after my imminent win is to teach what I know and develop a boxing program for youth under Grassroots Artists MovEment (G.A.ME). The goal wouldn’t be to train young people to become professional boxers. Boxing would be utilized as a tool for engaging youth. I hope to mesh boxing and community activism. I’m anxious about focusing on educating young black men on the importance of living healthy and instilling in them that internal wellness is most important, not just excellent physical condition.
Just a week and a half ago, I was barred from participating in my first amatuer boxing match due to high blood pressure. The doctor checked my blood pressure four times, at one point the systolic was around 180. The doctor was taken aback. It was also shocking and disappointing to my supporters, some who had already spent an hour in transit to see me. The truth is, the news of my hypertension didn’t come as much of a shock to me. I had been diagnosed with hypertension since I was around 18-years-old and I've never been obese or not playing a competitive sport. I should have been more vigilant about checking my blood pressure the night before and then again earlier that morning, especially since I narrowly passed the Golden Gloves health screening last month. Others around me were mystified that an athletic herbivore who appears to be in incredible shape has symptoms of heart disease. 
Although heart disease is the deadliest killer in the U.S. among adults, black males are more likely to be diagnosed with hypertension. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in their 2010 national interview 32.5% of the adult black population had hypertension compared to fewer than 25% for whites. The same study found that a 1/3 more black men die from heart disease than black women.
As I write this on the eve of what will hopefully be my first boxing match, I ponder that although I have been increasing my leafy greens and citrus fruits to control my blood pressure there are a number of factors that affect my blood pressure: hereditary, poor eating habits earlier in my teens and my sodium intake. I stopped drinking and I don’t smoke anything—well anymore. This may all take time for my body to register positive results. In the meantime, I am stuck taking Hydrochlorothiazide and Lisinopril. These are two drugs aimed at lowering hypertension, but also increase urination and rouse coughing. Other more harmful long-term side-effects are always possible. 
The main advice I would give young people in my future boxing program and anywhere in the world would be to learn and acquire food discipline at an early age, develop a palate for a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, limit fast food, get regular check-ups for heart disease and other illnesses, know your family’s history of heart disease, and leave the salt to the sea. Boxing and more importantly, OUR lives depend on maintaining a healthy regiment.

Wish me luck in the 2012 New York Golden Gloves.
*correction on spelling of Lisinopril and other grammatical errors.

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