By Sarah Fedele
“Being a nurse for 36 years, the whole experience was pretty surreal,” shares JoAnn Burnette, a Winston-Salem resident and Patient Experience Advisor at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center. “I tripped when I was coming off the elevator at work and they decided to check my blood pressure. It was 190/110. That was when I knew I had to get my blood pressure under control.”
“I had lived in denial of my high blood pressure,” JoAnn says. “How could this really be the silent killer when I don’t really feel bad?” She had been diagnosed with high blood pressure in her early 40s, was on three blood pressure medications and they were about to add a fourth. Her mother fought hypertension later in her life and JoAnn had to focus on managing her sodium and her blood pressure during her pregnancies. Over the years, she tried to think about her blood pressure, but she was inconsistent with her diet and with her workouts.
“I knew I was on a slippery slope. My blood pressure was so high. I was tired all the time and didn’t even have energy to play with my grandkids,” shares JoAnn.
About two and a half years ago, all of that changed. She started her journey by saying, “This black girl ain’t running nowhere!” “My friend Linda Harris was part of Black Girls Run. She invited me out and one Tuesday afternoon, I joined her. I was instantly addicted,” smiles JoAnn.
She started out walking and then began running. “I had never been an athlete, but I loved the freedom of running. It made me feel like I was really taking back control of my own health,” says JoAnn. “The women in Black Girls Run are truly a community committed to living a healthier lifestyle and they made it possible for me to make a healthy change.”
She also got consistent with her diet. As JoAnn notes, “You can’t run off a bad diet.” She focuses on lean meats and lots of fruits and vegetables.
“I’m in a good place now,” shares JoAnn. “I have lost over 60 pounds and am the healthiest that I have been in a long time. I feel better both physically and emotionally. Now I have the energy to really participate with my family and friends.”
“My change would not have been possible without my strong faith in God and this community of encouraging, supportive and health-minded women,” says JoAnn. “It doesn’t matter what your age is, you can make a change. Now, I feel blessed to be able to inspire others to make healthier choices and lead healthier lifestyles.”
After getting her running shoes on, JoAnn hasn’t stopped. She has now completed five half marathons and just finished her first full marathon right after her 65th birthday. She dedicated her first marathon to her sister, Bonnie, who recently passed away, and her friend, Frankye, who is a breast cancer survivor.
Instead of trying to keep that New Year’s resolution going, make a year-long resolution to find a healthy physical activity that you can get addicted to. JoAnn’s love of running and her consistent diet and exercise have helped her to finally manage her blood pressure. Now she is only on a half of one blood pressure medication and she has a whole new perspective on the road that lies ahead of her.
Nearly half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure and many don’t even know they have it. More than 46% of African-American women have high blood pressure. Also, hypertension occurs at a younger age for African-Americans and plays a role in 50% of all deaths. But, with accurate and regular self-monitoring, the effects of high blood pressure may be detected and treated, saving lives.
Novant Health and the American Heart Association have joined together to focus on making a community impact in the blood pressure of Forsyth County residents this year. The goal of engaging 5,000 people with Check. Change. Control. in Forsyth County will have a significant impact on the health of our community.
The focus of the program includes developing positive self-monitoring habits, sharing tools and tips to improve blood pressure, and reducing this risk factor for heart disease and stroke by dropping BP levels to a healthy 120/80.
Get your blood pressure checked today and track your BP for free at heart.org/CheckItTriad. Use code: CCCNH to get personalized tips on how to better control your BP.