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Kerri always suspected there was a link between experiencing preeclampsia with her first child and developing hypertension later in life. She speaks from the heart to share her story.

I am a 48-year-old Aboriginal (Noongar) woman from WA.

I was just 18 when I came close to death during what should have been a happy moment – delivering my first child.

Two weeks prior, I had been diagnosed with preeclampsia, despite feeling well and displaying no outward symptoms. It was something I’d never even heard of or suspected I could be at risk of.

My baby and I made it through, thankfully, but we spent two weeks in hospital recovering.

I often think of the stress and worry I felt at such a young age knowing I could have lost my baby.

I had a very supportive family, which helped me pull through the experience, and I was very fortunate to go on to have my second child at age 21, with no complications or signs of preeclampsia.

But I learnt that if we don’t ask questions during ante-natal appointments, we can become at risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. At the age of 30, I was diagnosed with hypertension, and I’ve been on medication ever since. Two years ago, I was also diagnosed with left ventricular hypertrophy.

I always suspected that there was a link between experiencing preeclampsia with my first child and developing hypertension later in life.

There is a strong family history of heart disease on my father’s side, as well, so now I pay extra attention to nurturing myself and making my health a priority.

I know that Aboriginal people are at much greater risk of developing a cardiovascular disease such as diabetes and heart disease, and I know the importance and risks associated with having an unhealthy lifestyle. So I try to eat well, avoid processed and fast foods, plan daily exercise, sleep well and minimise stress, although this is easier said than done for many!

I also visit my doctor regularly and am careful to remember to take my medication, despite working full-time and raising a family.

I share my story because I hope more Aboriginal people will share their stories. Sadly, a high proportion of Aboriginal people are living with a chronic disease and unfortunately passing on from the many complications that can occur if you don’t look after yourself.

I strongly encourage everyone to have regular check-ups with their doctors, and to take care of themselves. If we can teach our younger generations the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle from the start, then we have a chance of reducing our rates of cardiovascular disease.

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