Shaun Robinson is one of the most well-known personalities on television, and she uses her celebrity for a good cause by bringing awareness to sudden cardiac arrest. The Access Hollywood co-anchor and correspondent has teamed up with Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) and the Association of Black Cardiologists to increase awareness of this deadly epidemic through their “Arrest the Risk” campaign.
“Over 350,000 Americans each year die from sudden cardiac arrest, and a lot of those deaths were preventable,” she tells JET. “A thousand people every single day, and one every 90 seconds.”
Sudden cardiac arrest—which recently took the life of Robinson’s good friend, Michael Clarke Duncan—should not be confused with a heart attack. While one can suffer from a heart attack and not even know it until days later, sudden cardiac arrest can kill you in an instant, she explains.
Robinson’s passion for the cause is palpable, due to her many personal ties to it. Her family has had a long history of heart disease, with both her grandfather and grandmother suffering from it.
“I remember as a little girl, my grandmother used to carry that little vile of nitroglycerin pills around her neck on a string, or she’d tuck it in her bra,” she recalls. “She would say, ‘Baby, that’s grandma’s heart medicine.’ I didn’t realize it at the time that because she had a problem, I may have a problem later on in life.”
According to a new study conducted by HRS with Ispos Healthcare, African Americans are significantly less familiar with sudden cardiac arrest. More than 60 percent with no self-reported prior heart disease, but reported experiencing heart disease symptoms, do not visit the doctor as a result. And 90 percent reported that their doctor never talked to them about their risk for sudden cardiac arrest. All of this puts African Americans at the top of the list of those who die from it.
Robinson hopes that her involvement with HRS helps reverse these statistics and encourages more to make that trip to the doctor a better, more routine experience.
“We’ll go into the doctor’s office not prepared. It’s like a job interview,” she says. “You’re the company and when you go into the doctor, you need to know everything about that company.”
Robinson says knowing your family’s history with heart disease or any heart issues is a key preventative measure. Once you know the history, you learn your risk and can better communicate it to your physician.
As far as negative stigma associated with going to the doctor, Robinson says we just have to get over it—though she does recognize that lack of access to healthcare poses a problem for some.
“Everybody needs access to care, period!” she exclaims. “It is a travesty in America, the greatest nation on this planet, that some people don’t have access to care.”
Still, she suggests other simple ways we can reduce our risk:
- Exercise regularly, whether it’s a light jog or just walking.
- Eat better and avoid fried foods (pig’s feet and chitterlings, too!)
- Reduce your stress, unplug the TV and turn off the phone, if only for a moment.
“We can lower these numbers,” Robinson says optimistically. “I want to use the platform that I have and let people know how important it is for us to take responsibility for our bodies and our health.”
And not only for our own good, she emphasizes, but for our friends and loved ones as well.
“I had a girlfriend who was 35 years old and died from sudden cardiac arrest,” she says. “Thirty-five. The fact that a lot of these deaths are preventable means that we’re not doing something that we should be doing. We need to be proactive.”
For more information on sudden cardiac arrest, symptoms and preventative measures, please visit http://www.arresttherisk.org.