When legendary filmmaker John Singleton died earlier this year at just 51 years old, many people were shocked. How could a man, who had access to the best of doctors and nutrition, die at such a young age?
Later, it was discovered that the Academy Award-nominee had long suffered from high blood pressure and died due to complications from the disease. High blood pressure or hypertension, is known as the silent killer and is prevalent among men.
“Like many African Americans, Singleton quietly struggled with hypertension,” said Singleton’s family in a statement after his death. “More than 40 percent of African American men and women have high blood pressure, which also develops earlier in life and is usually more severe.”
Last month, an episode of the Two Haute Mamas podcast celebrating Singleton’s life, featured an interview with LA Times columnist Sonaiya Kelley. Kelleyhad followed Singleton’s career from the breakout success of his first film, Boyz n The Hood, to his most recent work as a TV producer.
During the segment, co-host Lindy Vincent noted, “We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about how Singleton died. High blood pressure is killing off men, especially Black men, and it can easily be prevented. We have to do something to help men make better choices about their health.”
The conversation resulted in a partnership with Black Nurses Rock (BNR), a coalition of more than 150,000 African American healthcare providers who work at hospitals and clinics in the Twin Cities, to host a free blood pressure screening just in time for Father’s Day.
Kelly Robinson, president of BNR’s Twin Cities chapter, said the group has been targeting men’s health. “The statistics are [alarming] for our non-Hispanic, African American men when it comes to being diagnosed with hypertension,” said Robinson. “With White men, it’s 23 percent, but with Black men, it’s 45 percent of men that have hypertension.”
In her experience, Robinson said Black men are more reluctant to get regular check-ups, which results in later diagnosis and fewer treatment options.
“A lot of our Black men have that fear of going to the doctor because they do not want to focus on anything negative. They would rather not know that they are sick and have high blood pressure.”
Robinson added that you have to make it relatable for men when you’re talking about their health. “If they know their car is going to break down when they get on the highway, they will stop it and get it checked. If you know that you have high blood pressure, you can check it and change it,” she said.
“You can change high blood pressure with diet and exercise and, sometimes, it requires a small little pill. You shouldn’t die because you like to eat fried chicken.”
More than a dozen nurses will be onsite to provide free blood pressure screening for the event. Robinson said the event is about more than just finding out the numbers.
“We are trying to impart some education that day, as well. We plan to bring some real stories and real events that kind of bring it home for the men who come to get their blood pressure checked.”
This will also include nutrition tips, such as ways to reduce sodium, and ways to get more active.
“You have to start with baby steps,” said Robinson. “Exercise and the classes are cool, if you can get into it. But for most people, that’s a barrier.” She said, instead, simple things like dancing can be incorporated for healthier living. “If you dance for 15 minutes, you can burn 100 calories. Once you get the body moving, it’s a form of exercise.”
The Father’s Day Blood Pressure Screening event takes place June 14, 12 to 1 pm at Golden Thyme Café, 921 Selby Avenue in St. Paul. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information, visit twohautemamas.com.