ShantaQuilette’s Legacy Against Cardiovascular Disease

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This article is part of the “Lead Your Legacy Against Cardiovascular Disease” series. Cardiovascular disease is a group of conditions that involve the heart and blood vessels. Common complications include heart attack, chest pain (angina), or stroke.

At any time, here or as you finish reading about each individual’s experience, you can click through and take a simple pledge to lead a legacy of fewer lives lost to cardiovascular disease.

ShantaQuilette Carter-Williams

Illustration by Cindy Echevarria

Meet ShantaQuilette

ShantaQuilette Carter-Williams, 42, is a tax accountant with a goofy sense of humor. She lives in Texas with her family. She is using her experience with cardiovascular disease to create a happier future for her kids and inspire other women of color to advocate for themselves. She works with the Black Heart Association to educate women in underprivileged communities about heart disease and stroke.

Deciding to Pledge

ShantaQuilette’s experience with cardiovascular disease inspired her to take the pledge for herself, her loved ones, and other women of color.

 In 2018, she left work early one day with extreme fatigue and light chest pain. She considered visiting the emergency room, but in the past, that had not helped her. “I thought, ‘Well if I go to the E.R., they’ll just say nothing’s wrong again,’” ShantaQuilette recalls. “So I didn't.”

When her pain continued for another week, she finally let one of her daughters take her to the emergency room. After a doctor examined her, he asked, “Why did you wait so long to come to the hospital?” ShantaQuilette told him about her past experiences. He said, “I don’t want to scare you, but you’re having a heart attack.”

ShantaQuilette cried. “All I heard was death,” she says.

A year later, she collapsed at work — “One of my co-workers heard me gasping for air,” she recalls — and then she woke up in the hospital. A neurologist told her she’d had a stroke. “That’s when my life changed,” she recalls.

Thinking About Family

ShantaQuilette has seven children in her blended family, and when she was faced with her own mortality her family was all she could think about. “I thought about not seeing my children graduate or get married, and how my husband would be without me. It was very hard.”

These events inspired her to make a positive change. ShantaQuilette and her children cook together, and the kids check in with her and help her make healthy choices. ShantaQuilette believes that simple acts like these “could save somebody’s life — like my children's lives and those in the next generation.”

Shantaquilette Carter-Williams

I live my life to the fullest now. My children will always know I did my best to love them and show them a better future.

— Shantaquilette Carter-Williams

Pledging for the Community

ShantaQuilette’s experience is, unfortunately, not a rare occurrence. In the United States, it is all too common for cardiovascular disease to be missed in women and people of color. Black patients also tend to receive lower quality health care than white patients, according to the National Institutes of Health, and they are more likely to die from chronic diseases.

Black Americans are 30% more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than others in the United States, and cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States, causing 1 in 3 deaths. Women are more likely to be misdiagnosed and under-treated for cardiovascular disease than men.

Realizing this, ShantaQuilette decided to use her experience to inspire other women of color to advocate for themselves. “I want to do everything I can to get the message out there,” she says. ‘“My heart matters, and so does yours. I want to spread the word to women in underserved communities, especially Black women, to be proactive in their heart health.”

She works with the Black Heart Association to educate women in underprivileged communities about heart disease and stroke. She also uses social media to teach others about cardiovascular risks and healthy habits: “I’m always creating videos to try to make people more aware.”

Shantaquilette Carter-Williams

My heart matters, and so does yours. I want to spread the word to women in underserved communities, especially Black women, to be proactive in their heart health.

— Shantaquilette Carter-Williams

Leading a Legacy

ShantaQuilette knows the changes that she’s made with her family and the advocacy work she’s doing will improve the health of future generations. As for herself, she found a doctor she trusts, took steps to reduce her stress, and thinks often about the importance of her legacy. She passes her lessons along to her children, extended family, and community, encouraging them to talk to one another about health.

“I live my life to the fullest now,” ShantaQuilette says. “My children will always know I did my best to love them and show them a better future.”

Take Your Pledge

Join ShantaQuilette in taking the pledge. Together, we can help lead a legacy of fewer lives lost.

 The Legacy We Lead aims to halt the rise of deaths from cardiovascular disease. Click below to be a part of the change—you'll complete the pledge in a heartbeat, and the benefits will last for generations to come.

10/21 date change
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