Angela Bassett is personally invested in raising awareness for heart health.
The Oscar-nominated actress, 61, has partnered with the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association for the Know Diabetes by Heart initiative, which aims to educate people with type 2 diabetes of their increased risk of heart disease and stroke — and how to live more healthfully.
“You’ve been diagnosed with a new purpose to fight for the amazing life you’ve made for yourself,” Bassett says in a PSA video for the campaign. “Look that risk of heart disease square in the face and say, ‘No, not me.’ “
Speaking with People Now, Bassett opened up about her personal connection to the subject: her mother, who passed away about five years ago due to complications from type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
“That was really hard on the family,” the Black Panther actress said. “And since then, overlapping with that, her brother, the patriarch of our family, he also has type 2 diabetes, so it really is a family affair.”
Bassett said the partnership with the initiative “just made sense” as a way to honor her mother, and that she wants to empower other sufferers to use tools to help their health.
According to the health initiative, those living with diabetes are two times more likely to develop and die from cardiovascular disease, whether that’s heart disease, heart failure, heart attack or stroke. For anyone older than 60, having type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease shortens their life expectancy by an average of 12 years.
Reflecting on her mother’s experience with diabetes, Bassett said it was challenging for her mom to switch up her lifestyle post-diagnosis.
“Growing up in Florida, you know, Southern family and Southern cuisine — and she had a love affair with food,” she recalled. “And so it was very, very difficult for her to change that … she was stubborn.”
She added: “She was in touch with her doctors, but she was a little bit more obstinate — one of those personalities where ‘don’t tell me what to do.’ “
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Finding a way to improve health while living with type 2 diabetes doesn’t have to be a drastic change to everyday routines: “It can start with small, manageable steps,” said Bassett.
With the free one-year program, participants are provided with information and support on living with type 2 diabetes, as well as recipes and handy questions to be sure to ask doctors.
“Sometimes when you’re sitting in front of a doctor, some of us go mute,” she said. “I know I have to write down a list of questions I don’t want to forget to ask.”
Though she doesn’t live with type 2 diabetes, becoming involved in the outreach initiative has brought Bassett’s own health to the forefront of her mind, inspiring her to make subtle changes for the betterment of her overall health.
“Sometimes, you know, because my schedule is so busy, I find that if I don’t have an opportunity to work out, I do have to be mindful of my diet,” she said. “That period, overall. But especially if I … can’t find that time.”