Former IRS Worker Turns Comedian After Heart Attack And Stroke

The health scare prompted a life change she never imagined and now she uses her new platform to advocate for heart disease awareness

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From her viral videos on Tik Tok to taking the stage at the Dallas Comedy Club, Shantaquilette Carter Williams has drawn laughter from tens of thousands of people, but her path to comedy was no laughing matter.

"I was nauseous. I had stomach pain and shoulder pain. It was like I was coming down with the flu and as a busy mom, that's what contributed to me having flu-like symptoms," said Carter Williams.

She didn't have the flu. Instead, those were the symptoms she felt leading up to a heart attack in 2018.

At the time, she was only 39 years old. She was hospitalized for almost a week.

Nine months later, she suffered a stroke.

"Never did I think, at 39 and 40, that I will be having a heart attack and stroke, and you start facing your own mortality," said Carter Williams.

Faced with uncertainty and fear, she found comfort in humor.

The longtime IRS worker posted her first Tik Tok.

"It went viral and I had seen there, at that moment, I need to walk in my purpose," said Carter Williams.

She left her job at the IRS and now uses comedy and her new platform to raise awareness about heart disease.

"Everyone should know their risks. Everyone should know their family history and everyone should be accountable for their heart health," she said.

"Let me say this, a stroke changes the way you see things, not just your peripheral vision. It really changes the way you see things. Like my husband. He used to come home with chocolates, flowers, all types of stuff. I know that turns ladies on. They don't turn me on. You know what turns me on? When he walks through the door with my blood pressure medicine. There's something about a man wanting to see you 116 over 78 that gives me heart palpitations. I mean good ones. I am not trying to have a heart attack again," joked Carter Williams.

She spent two years in rehabilitation, including speech, physical and occupational therapy and is now on statins, a LDL cholesterol-lowering medication.

She now shares her story as a advocate for the American Heart Association, which says black Americans have a higher prevalence of stroke and highest death rate from stroke than any other racial group.

Not all of the reasons are clear why African Americans have an increased risk of stroke, but over two-thirds of black Americans have at least one risk factor for stroke.

Risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure - Over half of black adults have high blood pressure. It develops earlier in black Americans and is often more severe.
  • Overweight and obesity - Almost 70% of black men and over 80% of black women are overweight or obese.
  • Diabetes - African Americans are more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.
  • High cholesterol - Nearly 30% of black Americans have high levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.
  • Sickle cell anemia - This common genetic disorder in African Americans is a risk factor for stroke.
  • Smoking - Over 15% of black adults smoke, doubling their risk of stroke.
  • Eating too much salt (sodium) - Research shows that African Americans may have a gene that greatly increases sensitivity to salt and its effects.
  • Stress - African American adults face daily stressors that may increase risk for stroke.
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