Queen Latifah is sharing the positive side-effects of her mother’s 13-year long battle with heart failure – and why she’s speaking out to help others with the condition.
“I’ve just learned how much you can love a person and just how strong my mother is,” she shares of her mother Rita Owens during a sit-down with PEOPLE Now. “I’ve come to respect her in ways you can’t even imagine.”
Heart failure is a chronic, progressive condition in which the heart is unable to pump blood efficiently enough to meet the body’s needs. Owens told PEOPLE in 2015 that proper medication, a defibrillator implanted in her chest to avert a heart attack and a diet low in salt and fats but heavy on vegetables enables her to live with condition.
“I watched her come through so many things, ups and downs, hospitalizations – I mean really being in the ICU for that matter – you know, going through tough times and watching her come back and bounce back and still maintain this sense of humor, and love and drive and will,” says Latifah of Owens. “I just love her so much more, I respect her so much more. She really just gives me hope for life and the world.”
Latifah first revealed to PEOPLE in 2015 that when she’s not in California, she stays at her mother’s home in New Jersey, sharing caregiving duties with relatives and a nurse.
“As a caregiver – it’s just like being a parent, like some things really don’t matter,” says Latifah. “All the kind of frivolous things sort of fall to the side because there’s something way more important than all that. And when we go through these things together as a family, I realize, thess are the important things, these are the important moments.”
She continues, “Whatever some tabloid printed means nothing, money doesn’t mean anything, work is great – I work so that I can take care of my family – but the family is the most important thing.”
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The 47-year-old is now working with the American Heart Association to encourage people to ask, “What the HF?” She explains, “We still have to really bring awareness to heart failure. That’s what HF stands for, and millions of people live with heart failure in our country.”
“[We want to] really help people out there become aware of what it is and really how to take care of themselves if they have it and really to stay out of the hospital, because millions are hospitalized with heart failure but it could be prevented if they knew some steps to take,” she shares.