A Desire to Help Men in our Community: The HEART Matters Program

Heart Disease Facts in African American men

  • 44% of adult (20 and older) African American men have a form of cardiovascular disease or CVD (coronary heart disease, stroke, or other form of disease)
  • Almost 1 out of every 3 African American men died from cardiovascular disease in 2009
  • Blacks are almost twice as likely to suffer a first-ever stroke than whites
  • About 43% of African American men have high blood pressure (Hypertension)
  •  About 36% of African American men are pre-diabetic and 13% are diagnosed diabetic
  • Blacks are more likely to sleep less than 6 hours a night, increasing risk for heart disease

image of a heartRisk Factors for Heart Disease

High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (49%) have at least one of these three risk factors. Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Poor diet
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Physical inactivity

What is the HEART Matters Program?
Healthy Eating Activity Rest Together (HEART) Matters! This program is a way to promote healthy behaviors among African American men. Funding from a grant, allows Dr. Larrell Wilkinson to offer health coaching to African American men who are overweight or obese and have a desire to become healthier. In addition, this grant allows for the training of men to become leaders in their peer groups to help other men become healthier.

This program aims to:Family image

Promote a more active lifestyle among African American men
Promote a healthier diet among African American men
Promote stress management and resting among African American men

Certified by The Cooper Institute, Dr. Wilkinson’s health coaching approach embraces a philosophy of placing the individual first and weight management second. This means, in order to help someone, he must first know who they are and what is important to them. Then he helps the individual focus on solutions that are appropriate to that individual. The hope of the HEART Matters Program is to unite African American men in solidarity to help one another improve their health, improve their quality of life, and take the lead on health issues in their families.

Is there a cost for the HEART Matters Program?
There is no financial cost to be involved. It will require some time, some energy, a commitment to improving your health, and a commitment to helping your brothers.

Treadmill testingHow does HEART Matters work?
African American men ages 24 – 64 can join the HEART Matters Program. After an initial survey and weight measurement, men will have regular communication (i.e. phone, email, text messages) with Dr. Wilkinson and his team to receive health coaching. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will coach men for 90 days (3 months) and then reassess men’s health through a survey and weight measurement. Some men may volunteer to participate in exercise testing. Similar to the left picture, exercise testing will give men a fitness profile, similar to what you may have seen athletes undergoBlood pressure testing in sports drink commercials. Men participating in the exercise testing will also be asked to give a small sample of blood per exam. The HEART Matters Program is looking for 200 African American MEN to step up to the challenge! We hope 50 will go through exercise testing! Men, who are successful in meeting their fitness goals, will be asked to become Health MENTORS. MENTORS will be trained to help their friends and other men improve their health through setting and meeting fitness goals. Overall, our goal is to help African American men improve their health and wellness through men working together. Are you interested in losing weight or want to improve your health? If so, please contact Dr. Larrell Wilkinson at (205) 975-1295 or email him at LARRELLW@uab.edu.

What You Can Do to Improve Your Health

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. Man stretching

Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

Eat a healthy diet. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, increase fiber, and lower cholesterol.

Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease.

Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure.

Dr. Larrell Wilkinson | HEARTMatters@uab.edu | (205) 975-1295