With an illustrious career in radio, including as co-host of The Breakfast Club since 2010 and host of the popular podcast Lip Service, Angela Yee isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions — or to tackle complicated topics. As February is American Heart Month and heart disease is still the number one cause of death of men and women in the U.S., she’s confronting one of the toughest topics of all. Yee is seeking to help Black women, 60 percent more likely to have high blood pressure when compared to their white counterparts, to prioritize their heart health.
With help from health activist Coach Gessie, co-host alongside Yee of the new wellness podcast Detox Living, they’re giving away thousands of blood pressure cuffs. The hope is to help women track their numbers and keep them low, as well as to educate them about their cardiovascular health in general and the way our stress levels play into . This topic — no pun intended — is one close to both of their hearts.
“I’ve had my own health issues that fortunately, didn’t spiral into anything worse,” Yee tells ESSENCE of having high cholesterol in the past, which is linked to elevated blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease. “I had high cholesterol and that could have ended up being really bad. My levels were so high, the doctor was like, ‘You really need to handle this because you’ll be on medication every day for the rest of your life if you don’t take care of this now.'”
As for Coach Gessie, high blood pressure put her in the hospital. During the pandemic, she had a brain aneurysm because her skyrocketing numbers went unchecked.
“One of the statistics that truly shook me was that more than 50 percent of Black women, ages 20 and over — so we’re talking from Gen Zs and millennials — have high blood pressure and many don’t know it. I didn’t find this out until after my ordeal,” she says. “We don’t necessarily have the tools like a BP cuff at home to be able measure our blood pressure. So what’s happening after our annual exams is our blood pressure is really an unknown factor to us until it becomes a crisis. You don’t want to wait for that.”
So they’re teaming up with the Release The Pressure coalition to help you better monitor your blood pressure at home with these cuffs. They advocate for you to sit up straight when measuring it, and avoid exercising, coffee, scrolling through your phone, or rushing around before taking it in order to get a proper reading twice in the morning and in the evening.
“Check your levels, put your arm on the table, relax, do it twice in the morning,” Yee says. “We have all the information on when you’re supposed to do it, how you’re supposed to do it. And in general, signs you should be looking for. So if it feels like something’s wrong, pay attention to your body, but it’s a great idea for you to monitor this yourself and to be able to know what your levels should be and how to take your own blood pressure.”
“Because heart disease is the number one killer of Black women, it requires us taking control,” Coach Gessie adds. “And the world around us is not going to make us pay attention. We have to have the right tribe, the right support system, center our heart health and say, ‘It’s important and we’re not going to become one of those statistics.'”
For Yee, this is just one of many efforts the radio personality is making to live a healthier life and enable others to do the same. In Brooklyn, she has a juice bar called Juices for Life where you can often find her at. She distributes her own line of organic pressed juices called Drink Fresh Juice, and collaborates with Coach Gessie on a Drink Fresh Juice fast to help people detox. She recently opened a coffee shop called Coffee Uplifts People due to the benefits of drinking coffee — when you’re not adding all the cream and sugar to it. Yee wants people to know what’s going on inside of their bodies through what we consume and by monitoring blood pressure.
“We want to be here as long as possible,” she says. “We want to make sure that our immune system is strong. We want to make sure that our head is clear and not foggy. All of those things mean a lot. Pay attention to your body, see if something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out. Make it normal for us to be healthy.”
Sign up to get a free heart health kit, including the blood pressure cuff, over at the Detox Now site.