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Deanna Zuber began working for Bayer in 2000, so she had long known that Bayer Aspirin has heart health benefits. However, she never thought she would be taking the medication to keep her own heart healthy after suffering an ischemic stroke caused by a life-changing disease.

Zuber, who leads eCommerce for Bayer’s drug channel, started experiencing strange symptoms in 2015: getting dizzy in confined spaces, loss of depth perception, and even lapses in memory. After a battery of tests revealed no diagnosis, “I did what most people do and I ignored it,” she said.

But in 2018, when home alone, something happened that Zuber couldn’t ignore. She quickly recognized the signs of a stroke (face drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulty).

“My blood pressure was so high that I could barely speak. All I could get out was my name and my address, and I said ‘stroke,’” she said.

A rare, progressive disease

Zuber spent five days in the hospital recovering and underwent tests that unveiled her stroke was caused by a diagnosis of Moyamoya disease — a rare progressive cerebrovascular disorder that narrows blood supply to the brain with no known cause or cure. It can affect both children and adults.

“After getting my diagnosis, I immediately went to my colleagues and friends at Bayer,” Zuber said. “How lucky was I that some of the top experts in cardiovascular health worked with me each day?” Alongside her colleagues, Zuber developed questions for her doctors’ appointments and aligned on a treatment plan.

Stanford’s Dr. Gary Steinberg, one of the world’s leading Moyamoya experts, performed a brain revascularization surgery that restored 60% of blood flow to the right side of Zuber’s brain. Luckily, she didn’t suffer any neurological deficits. In addition, she follows a doctor prescribed daily aspirin regimen to lower her risk of another event.

Pain into purpose

Now, Zuber stays on a daily aspirin regimen to avoid lower her risk of another major cardiac event.

“An aspirin regimen, especially an 81mg one — it’s not appropriate for everyone, so it’s important to consult with your doctor before starting one,” said Zuber, noting that, if it’s right for you, daily aspirin has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack and clot-related stroke.

Zuber returned to work just three months after her surgery. Since her stroke, she’s become a vocal advocate for the importance of preventative measures to maintain your health and reduce your risk of major cardiovascular events.

She started the social media channel Moyamoya Brave and sits on the American Heart Association’s Board of Directors for Northern New Jersey. In addition, she serves as a Community Impact Team Member for the World Moyamoya Alliance as a patient advocate and coach.

“I feel like I’ve been blessed with this gift of representation, and able to educate so many others through my storytelling, public speaking, and outreach,” Zuber said. “I feel incredibly honored.”

Health education through music

Like Zuber, legendary hip hop artist and Original Human Beatbox Doug E. Fresh uses his voice, talents, and extensive network of entertainers to inspire the masses to take charge of their health.

“So many people don’t pay attention to their heart health until it’s too late,” said Doug E., a long-time advocate of the importance of educating the public about preventative health measures, especially for those of Black or African descent. “You think about developing your muscles, your arms, your legs, your back, because you’re looking at all those muscles, but it’s important to spread the message that it’s important to think about cardio, keeping yourself moving, and keeping your heart strong.”

Doug E. Fresh (right) and Dr. Olajide Williams

One way he promotes his heart health message is through his foundation Hip Hop Public Health. Along with co-founder Dr. Olajide Williams, neurologist, health behavior change expert, and vice dean of Columbia University’s medical school, the organization developed a new approach to health education using music to teach about taking care of your health. It offers more than 200 free educational materials and programming to teachers, schools, and higher education institutions internationally.

“Hip hop is so powerful. When hip hop says something, in a way that’s fun or engaging, people respond,” Doug E. said.  “If we said something about how to eat, how to be healthy, what to ask your doctor or what health tests to get, it’s interactive and exciting, not preachy, and can be life changing.”        

Many influential artists have offered their talents to Hip Hop Public Health’s mission, including Arianna Grande, Jordan Sparks, Ashanti, and Chuck D. Cheryl “Salt” James, from the duo Salt-N-Pepa, even contributed the track “Let’s Talk About Salt” to the cause.

“It’s all about using that energy, using the platform to help,” Doug E. said. “And I know we’ve definitely helped a lot of people. I’ve seen the difference we’re making, even among my fellow hip hop artists – they’re changing their diets, exercising, doing things that might give them a better quality of life. And that’s the goal.”

A powerful partnership

Doug E. recently partnered with Bayer to advance his message of getting people to take charge of their heart health, especially Americans of Black or African descent, among whom heart disease is more prominent. Together, they are encouraging Americans to get the tests needed to identify health risk factors, such as the Aspirin Heart Health Assessment tool that is available free via www.checkyourheartrisks.com. The assessment allows you to learn about your personal heart health risk factors that can better inform conversations you have with your healthcare provider.

“When we got together with Team Bayer, there was a real natural kind of chemistry,” Doug E. said. “I know that together, we can help communities and give them valuable health information that can change lives.”


To learn more, or take a quick assessment to find out your potential risk of getting cardiovascular disease visit, www.checkyourheartrisks.com.


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