By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

For hip-hop artist Dee-1, eating healthy hasn’t been easy.

“I’m working all the time in the studio, doing concerts or in meetings, so I’m eating out, getting take-out or going through a drive-thru,” he said. “I’ve had to learn that it’s important to slow down and put an extra few minutes into getting healthier food into your system.”

He also decided to put what he learned to song, releasing a new video called “Increasing Your Healthy Living Behaviors.”

The track, which is based on the American Heart Association’s My Life Check – Life’s Simple 7, encourages people to focus more on nutritious foods, control blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, maintain a healthy weight, avoid tobacco products and get plenty of exercise.

Those seven factors also form what rapper Dee-1, who was born David Augustine, calls “a formula for success” when it comes to health.

“Knowing your numbers is the gateway to telling a much bigger story,” he said. “Just like I want to know how much I have in the bank, I want to know what my blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are.”

The video kicks off National Minority Health Month this April through the AHA’s EmPOWERED To Serve initiative to help improve health in diverse communities across America.

It’s the second health-related video Dee-1 has created. Earlier this year, he tackled another socially conscious issue affecting Americans with the release of his video “Sallie Mae Back.”

The video, which celebrates paying off student loans from banking company Sallie Mae, went viral through mainstream and social media.

The song struck such a chord in part because at least 40 million Americans have at least one outstanding student loan as of 2014, according to analysis from credit bureau Experian.

“Getting out of college, it’s hard to find jobs and make a comfortable living,” said Dee-1, who accumulated loan debt while attending Louisiana State University. “I can relate to that and wanted to tell my story and give people hope that they can work to get to the day when they can pay Sallie Mae back too.”

He knows that people can relate to the need to live healthier, as well.

“My brand is to be real, be righteous and be relevant,” he said. “It’s important to be living a high-quality life and you can’t do that if you don’t have health.”

Cardiovascular disease is the leading global cause of death, accounting for more than 17.3 million deaths per year, a number that is expected to grow to more than 23.6 million by 2030.

Nearly half of all African-American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease and the rate of high blood pressure among African-Americans is among the highest of any population in the world. Additionally, blacks have a risk of first-ever stroke that is almost twice that of whites.

African-Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and other ethnic minorities also bear a disproportionate burden of diabetes in the U.S.

But 80 percent of heart disease and stroke are preventable through lifestyle factors. So, learning about how lifestyle factors can affect health helped Dee-1, 26, see where he could make changes. He’s been trying to cut back on greasy, fried foods after realizing he was eating fast food nearly every day.Dee-1

“I haven’t gone cold turkey, but I’ve drastically reduced my intake,” he said.

Growing up in New Orleans, Dee-1 spent his formative years in a culture that celebrates food. He enjoyed a rich tapestry of dishes made by his tight-knit family.

“My grandmother and mom are some of the best cooks in the world, but there’s a difference between eating good and eating healthy,” he said.

Dee-1, who doesn’t cook, still eats most meals out, but is now more careful about what he chooses.

“There are options that are more wholesome,” he said. “It costs more money and takes more time than sitting in a drive-thru, but it’s worth it.”