While it is American Heart Month, it’s also Black History Month. Did you know that African Americans suffer the highest risk across the country for heart disease and stroke? The good news is that there is much we can do to decrease our risk and understanding the stats is just the beginning.
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Heart Disease Statistics for African Americans
While heart disease (and stroke) is the number one killer across the United States, African Americans are at the highest risk of all the ethnicities. Not only is the death rate higher, but more young African Americans are being diagnosed with similar heart disease to what we see in older Caucasians.
From MethodistHealth “Nearly 48% of African American women and 44% of African American men have some form of heart disease. The rate of heart disease is also higher in the growing middle and upper-class African American community than in white Americans with comparable socioeconomic status.”
As per this article, “the report highlights the greater incidence, prevalence, and/or mortality of heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest, sudden cardiac death, transient ischemic attacks, ischemic stroke, and intracerebral hemorrhage in African Americans compared to Whites.”
In addition, as of 2018, high blood pressure in African Americans was 10% higher than in Caucasians. See this article for more stats.
Due to this and a number of reasons we’ll explore further, African Americans are more at risk to get heart disease and more at risk to die from it.
Why Are The Stats Higher?
To understand why the risks are higher, let’s take a look at the risk factors for heart disease:
Physical risk factors:
- High Cholesterol
- Cigarette smoking
Obesity. Non-Hispanic blacks are the most gravely affected by obesity. Over the age of 20 and older, 82% of women and 69% of men are overweight or obese.
High cholesterol. As of 2018, the reported numbers of African Americans who have high cholesterol is under the national average. But this may not be the good news that we hope for, since some Non-Hispanic Blacks may not be actively visiting the doctor and having regular checkups.
Cigarette smoking. Recent numbers indicate that African American males have a higher rate of cigarette smoking than other ethnicities.
Socioeconomic risk factors:
- Access to quality health care
- Cost barrier to health insurance
- Diet quality and affordable, local availability to healthy foods
- Exercise limitations
Access to quality healthcare and cost barriers to health insurance. These two items go hand-in-hand when determining getting affordable and quality medical care. Because of this obstacle, early detection and management of heart disease is at a lower rate.
Diet quality. This can be due to a number of reasons. Fast food is cheaper in some neighborhoods that buying proteins and vegetables. Healthy foods may not be available in many neighborhoods, proliferating a cycle of poor dietary habits.
Exercise limitations. Due to systemic and cyclic poverty, many neighborhoods may not be safe and may not be able to promote outdoor, free exercise, such as walking, year-round.
What Can Be Done?
Now that the risks are understood, the best starting place is to look at your life and the possible risk factors you run.
- Get a healthcare provider if you don’t have one. Research and resource clinics and doctors in your area.
- Get checked for diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol .
- Commit to eating healthier. Research healthy food options and where to shop for them. It is worth the time to understand where to shop for what items, when the sales are and what items can be cooked ahead or frozen. Read 7 Ways To Eat Heart Healthy On A Budget for smart ideas on shopping and cooking.
- Drink more water and less soda or juice.
- Determine how to get more exercise and make it a priority
Regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic factors or race, there are things we can do for ourselves to manage our heart health. Even the smallest of steps can make a difference.
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