UA Sarver Heart Center Minority Outreach Health Advocate Wanda Moore Says Knowledge is Power in Regard to Heart Disease

04/18/16

As an African American woman who heads the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center Community Coalition for Heart Health Education, Wanda Moore is very aware that she is in one of the highest risk groups of dying from heart disease. She also believes and advocates that lifestyle risk factors are manageable.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, heart disease disproportionately afflicts African American women, killing about 50,000 each year. For Moore and her committee members, knowledge is power and the good news is women can lower their heart disease risk by as much as 82 percent by addressing these risk factors:

  • Smoking – about one in five African American women smokes. After one year of quitting, heart disease risk drops by more than half.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) – about 37 percent of African American women have high blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke and heart failure. Healthful eating, including low salt intake, regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and moderate alcohol consumption can help, plus taking medication if prescribed.

“Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and inactivity are risk factors that run rampant in my immediate family and my parents’ families. I have been aware of these risks for many years, but did not think I would get heart disease,” said Moore. “I made every effort to change my lifestyle to offset those risk factors. As a member of the Sarver Heart Center Women’s Heart Health Education Committee for many years, I was blessed to be able to say with a humble heart that, ‘I do not have heart disease.’ Well, in spite of my healthy, active, watch-my-food-intake lifestyle, I too became a victim of heart disease. I have coronary artery disease (CAD) and in 2015, I had to have bypass surgery.”

In addition to Moore, heart disease afflicted two of her five siblings, including her brother, Gary, Lang who had quadruple bypass surgery, and her sister, Joyce Harris, who died following congestive heart failure in 2015. “There is nothing like the pain and helplessness of losing my sister. Her loss came far too soon, even with the greatest access to phenomenal health care, the best-trained physicians and lifesaving research in heart disease. I still ask, ‘Why,’” said Moore.

“Joycee, as I fondly called her, was the family peacemaker. She saw the best way to plan and manage any family situation, except her own health conditions. She had to have been sick for some time to not have a chance for survival after her heart-valve surgery. Unfortunately, she never shared her early health issues, especially with me, because I would have suggested action,” said Moore.

During the challenging nine-and-a-half months, following valve surgery, Joyce was more forthcoming about her health. Earlier, she had several stents and was seeing a cardiologist, but felt he never clearly explained her condition.  Even when he told her she needed to have valve surgery, he did not explain the seriousness of her health issues. 

“She was aware of other complications that she did not share with her doctor or family. She did not ask questions of her physicians; it was her hope that it would all get better (a major form of denial). Unfortunately for her and for us, her health did not get better,” said Moore.

Although Moore has had a very tough year between her family’s health challenges, as well as her own, she remains an active advocate for health education in the minority community. In fact, the Tucson Urban League recently honored her with the Henry Quinto Legacy Award, which recognizes individuals and organizations that create positive change by investing in and empowering marginalized populations.

“Please be an open and honest advocate for your own health. Only you can know exactly what is going on with your health. No matter how minor it may seem, ask your doctor. I truly miss my Joycee,” said Moore.

For more information about the UA Sarver Heart Center’s minority outreach program, please read the coalition’s latest newsletter.

The University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center’s 135 members include faculty from cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, pediatric cardiology, neurology, vascular surgery, radiology, endocrinology, emergency medicine, nursing, pharmacy and basic sciences. The UA Sarver Heart Center emphasizes a highly collaborative research environment, fostering innovative translational or “bench-to-bedside” research and working toward a future free of heart disease and stroke. If you would like to give permission for Sarver Heart Center to contact you about heart research studies, please complete a Cardiology Research Registry Information Form.

About the University of Arizona Health Sciences

The University of Arizona Health Sciences is the statewide leader in biomedical research and health professions training. The UA Health Sciences includes the UA Colleges of Medicine (Phoenix and Tucson), Nursing, Pharmacy and Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, with main campus locations in Tucson and the growing Phoenix Biomedical Campus in downtown Phoenix. From these vantage points, the UA Health Sciences reaches across the state of Arizona and the greater Southwest to provide cutting-edge health education, research, patient care and community outreach services. A major economic engine, the UA Health Sciences employs almost 5,000 people, has nearly 1,000 faculty members and garners more than $126 million in research grants and contracts annually. For more information, please visit uahs.arizona.edu.