Michelle Emebo was pregnant with her daughter in 2016 when she was diagnosed with hypertension. Even with medication, her blood pressure remained so high after her daughter’s birth, that her doctor wanted to increase her medication.
That’s when Emebo knew she had to make a change.
“Both my parents have hypertension," she explained. "Both my parents have had strokes. So I knew that I was at a greater risk for some major cardiovascular episode if I didn’t do something more about my health."
Emebo, 35, signed up for Orangetheory Fitness classes and started meal prepping at home and eating out less.
“It was a slow burn to lose the weight,” Emebo said.
She said she's lost 75 pounds in the last three years and has managed to lower her blood pressure, eliminating the need to take medication.
“Lifestyle changes can really make a big difference especially with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are the two biggest risk factors of heart disease,” said Dr. Annabelle Volgman, a medical director at the Rush Heart Center for Women.
Dr. Volgman said there's been an increase in African-American women in the United States dying during pregnancy; and cardiovascular disease is the number one reason why.
Cardiovascular disease claims the lives of more black women than all forms of cancer, accidents, assaults and Alzheimer’s Disease combined, according to the American Heart Association.
It’s statistics as such, along with Emebo's family history of cardiovascular disease that keep her determined to stay fit.
“I know cardiovascular disease is really real and we have to take control of our health through diet and exercise,” she said.
Michelle Emebo is sharing her story in hopes of helping others.
"If I can encourage any other mom or woman out there to know the importance of taking care of yourself and taking control of your health, and slow progress is still progress,” Emebo said.