Monica at 40: “I Hurt So Bad, I Would Pass Out”

Photo credit: Instagram

by M. Brooks

Singer Monica’s music career spans more than 20 years. She’s sold over 30 million albums worldwide, with seven albums and a Grammy under her belt.

As impressive as those numbers are, the beautiful Grammy-winning R&B singer takes pride in knowing a more surprising set of figures: her blood pressure numbers.

Now, at age 40, she wants everyone else to know their numbers too.

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In early 2016, Monica revealed how she suffered from high blood pressure and the painful way she discovered it.

“I used to have horrible, debilitating headaches. I could not move or get out of the bed. And sometimes it would hurt so bad that I would just pass out.”

“When I went to the doctor, my blood pressure was 185,” says Monica.

“So after being hospitalized for the same thing over and over again, I’ve learned to change some things.

Number one, reduce stress. Then change from salty foods and salt (Monica loves seasoned salt) to more healthy alternatives and change from soda–I love some coca-cola–but now I just drink it in moderation.”

This wasn’t the first health scare for the star. When she was just 18 years old and touring the country in support of her second album, she was performing in Washington, D.C., belting out the first portion of “Angel of Mine” when something strange happened.

“Everything in front of me basically began to go from color to black-and-white, fading in and out,” she said. “I walked to the side of the stage to ask for help and collapsed into one of our staff people’s arms.”

Over the next eight days, doctors struggled to trace the source of her problem. After multiple tests, and a few weeks, doctors finally found their answer.

The diagnosis: a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse. In simple terms, the flap between the upper and lower chambers of her heart wasn’t closing properly.

Having high blood pressure isn’t only a concern for older adults.

The singer reminds millennials that it’s important for people of all ages to know their blood pressure. high blood pressure. You may feel totally fine and still have high blood pressure Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack and heart failure, stroke, kidney failure; and permanently damage your heart, brain, eyes, and kidneys.

What Your Blood Pressure Numbers Mean

Your blood pressure numbers are a ratio of two numbers, systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number).

According to the AHA, “The top number, which is also the higher of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts).”

The lower number on the bottom “measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood).” 

According to a new study, a startling 75 percent of black people in the United States develop high blood pressure by the age of 55.

That’s a far higher rate than seen among either white men (55 percent) or white women (40 percent).

“We started to see differences between blacks and whites by age 30,” said lead researcher S. Justin Thomas. “We need to start focusing on preventing hypertension [high blood pressure], particularly in blacks, at an early age,” he added.

Thomas is an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s department of psychiatry.

It isn’t known why black Americans are more prone to high blood pressure at an earlier age than white Americans, Thomas said.

But he speculated that a combination of lifestyle and genetics may explain why.

Thomas said preventing high blood pressure needs to start by getting kids to develop healthy habits.

“I don’t think you can start too early,” he said. “It should start at elementary school. If kids are told frequently that this is important, they will adopt it.”

High blood pressure can lead to serious health problems over time, the researchers noted.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow explained that high blood pressure “is a leading risk factor for heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease and premature cardiovascular death.”

He is a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and was not involved with the new study.

Black men and women in the study had twice the risk of high blood pressure than white men and women, even after adjusting for other differences, he added.

“Prevention, awareness, treatment, and control of high blood pressure is essential, as cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal cardiovascular events, disability, hospitalizations and financial hardship,” Fonarow explained.

For the study, Thomas and his colleagues collected data on nearly 3,900 young adults who were part of a heart disease risk study.

The participants were enrolled in the study when they were 18 to 30 years old, and they didn’t have high blood pressure at the time.

High blood pressure is defined as a systolic pressure (the upper number) of 130 mm Hg or higher and a diastolic pressure (the lower number) of 80 mm Hg or higher.

These blood pressure benchmarks were first released in 2017, replacing the previous definition of high blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg.

This lower threshold for defining high blood pressure means even more Americans will be diagnosed with high blood pressure at younger ages, Thomas said.

Excess weight was the biggest risk factor for developing high blood pressure, regardless of sex or race, the researchers found.

Blacks and whites who kept a DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet were able to lower their risk for high blood pressure, the study findings showed.

The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy, fish, poultry, beans, seeds and nuts, and low in red meat and salt.

Dr. Byron Lee is director of electrophysiology laboratories and clinics at the University of California, San Francisco.

He said that “in many ways, 55 is the new 65.

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We used to not worry about hypertension until we reached our mid-60s, but it’s clear now that many of us need to take action much sooner.”

Lee pointed out that high blood pressure is a “modifiable risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

And if we don’t act on it, we are missing a major opportunity to decrease mortality.”

SOURCES: S. Justin Thomas, Ph.D., assistant professor, department of psychiatry, University of Alabama, Birmingham; Byron Lee, M.D., professor, medicine, director, electrophysiology laboratories and clinics, University of California, San Francisco; Gregg Fonarow, M.D., professor, cardiology, University of California, Los Angeles; July 11, 2018, Journal of the American Heart Association, online

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