Chandra Wilson, Lamman Rucker
"Grey's Anatomy" star Chandra Wilson (left) and actor Lamman Rucker pose for a photo right after Wilson accepted her award for "Excellence in Media," during the 18th annual Wenger Awards in Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

In the battle to save the lives of our mothers, daughters and sisters, “WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease,” is one of the greatest allies that families have against the deadly disease, the leading cause of death among women in the United States.

WomenHeart, “the nation’s only patient-centered organization solely serving millions of American women living with or at risk for heart disease,” according to the group’s website, recently celebrated the people and organizations that are on the frontlines of that battle, during the 18th Annual Wenger Awards in Washington, D.C.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an astounding one in four women die from heart disease every year.

Nearly 8 percent of Black women have coronary heart disease—the highest rate among all women; about 6 percent of White women have coronary heart disease.

As an actress and a natural advocate for healthy living, Chandra Wilson, who plays Dr. Miranda Bailey on the hit ABC television show “Grey’s Anatomy,” highlighted the importance of regular heart screenings and the need for better healthcare access for women, during the awards ceremony. Wilson was honored with the “Excellence in Media” award during the event.

“Nobody knows your battle better than you do…there are things that you need a physician to specifically listen for,” Wilson said. “You need to know your statistics, specifically women of color.”

Wilson also talked about the impact of heart disease on her own family.

“Even though, women face challenges with heart disease that are somewhat different from men, my father passed away from heart disease at age 55,” Wilson said. “And while he was aware of heart disease, he was never taught ‘Okay, this is what you do. Here are the things that can help,’ which is so important.”

During the Wenger Awards ceremony, Dr. Roxana Mehran (“Excellence in Medical Leadership,” Dr. Clyde W. Yancy (“Excellence in Medical Research”) and Rep. Debbie Dingel (D-Mich.) (“Excellence in Public Service”) were also recognized for their efforts in fighting heart disease. Actor and activist Lamman Rucker served as the master of ceremonies for the event.

Evan McGabe, the chair of the board of directors for WomenHeart, rallied attendees to get active and involved in learning more about their own heart statistics and overall health status.

“We really can’t believe that so many women still don’t know their risk of heart disease in this country,” McGabe said. “In our organization, we teach women how to be proactive about their health. We want to help women, not to dismiss their symptoms.”

McGabe added that WomenHeart works to empower women so that they can empower others.

According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of heart disease include chest discomfort, upper back pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea/vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, sudden weakness, paralysis in the limbs, blurred vision and impaired speech.

The risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity.

To reduce the chances of getting heart disease, the CDC recommends that people monitor their blood pressure on a regular basis, receive regular screenings for diabetes, limit smoking, eat healthy, lower stress and limit alcohol consumption.

Closing out the event, Rucker gushed over the opportunity to be able to be a part of such a powerful movement.

“I’ve had a relationship with the Association of Black Cardiologist for a number of years and have done heart health work with the American Heart Association,” Rucker said. “As an artist, a big part of our purpose behind the work that we are doing is to not just live out our dreams and be stars, but to inform, uplift and inspire people through the work that we do.

Rucker continued: “Just being able to be a part of [WomenHeart and the Wenger Awards] is tremendous.”

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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