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Listening to the Signs: Zetas Urge Awareness During American Heart Month

By Inside Columbia
Heart Month

As part of American Heart Month, one local group is urging area residents, especially women, to pay attention to their bodies and know what symptoms can arise.

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Martha Tomlin-McCrary

It’s an important message for Martha Tomlin-McCrary, who experienced her own trauma in 1995. After noticing shortness of breath and pain, unlike any pain she had experienced before, she went to the doctor, a decision that ended up saving her life. “If I had ignored my signs, I would not be here today,” she says. “It is such a blessing from God.” Tomlin-McCrary also gives credit to her doctors, Dr. Jerry Kennett and Dr. John Crouch, for giving her the chance she has now to be able to advocate for heart health and the importance of knowing your body. “We must advocate for ourselves,” she says. “Go to your doctor and get checked out.”

Dr. Randolph with Zetas
Dr. Khandicia Randolph

Tomlin-McCrary now shares her story as part of her role with the Upsilon Iota Zeta chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, where she serves as Z-HOPE coordinator. Z-HOPE is described by Tomlin-McCrary and Dr. Khandicia Randolph as “an international programmatic thrust” of Zeta Phi Beta that encourages members to help others excel through mind, body and soul through its many initiatives. Randolph, a life member of Zeta Phi Beta, notes that Tomlin-McCrary’s message of listening to your own body is especially important for women of color. “Because of historical perspectives and systemic racism in health care, we have become despondent and apathetic towards our own health,” Randolph says. “We ignore symptoms like that lingering back ache or that pain in your arm.” Then, by the time the issue is addressed, it can be too late.

Part of the issue is confusion over symptoms, as those of heart disease can be disguised as other pain for women. “Women show atypical symptoms. It may not always be a typical chest clutching; it could be pressure in your chest, or arm or neck pain,” Tomlin-McCrary says. “You have to know your body and your numbers, and then act on it.”

Randolph also encourages women to trust their own instincts, even if it means getting a second or third opinion. “If something doesn’t feel right, get it checked out, even if you have to go to 100 doctors or scream it from the rooftop until somebody listens to you,” Randolph says.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Tomlin-McCrary and Randolph hope to be able to spread awareness and information to give people the best chance possible of a healthy life. “We want everyone to get out and become a healthier version of themselves, become active and eat healthy,” Randolph says.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, has been around for more than 100 years and has more than 875 chapters in the United States and abroad, upholding the founders’ ideals of scholarship, service, sisterhood and finer womanhood. For more information on Zeta Phi Beta, visit zphib1920.org.

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