As Heart Month and Black History Month come to a close it is a good time to remind you about the risks for heart disease in African Americans. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in women, and stroke disproportionately affects African Americans. Importantly, African American women are less likely than Caucasian women to be aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death.
Diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and a family history of heart disease are all greatly prevalent among African Americans and are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. What’s more, African American women have almost two times the risk of stroke than Caucasians, and more likely to die at an earlier age when compared to women of other ethnicities.
Cardiovascular diseases kill nearly 20,000 African American women annually. Only 1 in 5 African American women believes she is personally at risk. Only 52 percent of African American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Only 36 percent of African American women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk. More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic blacks have high blood pressure, which is more severe in blacks than whites, and develops earlier in life.
The African American population also tends to have higher rates of obesity and diabetes, which puts them at greater risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. But for many African American women, particularly those who consider themselves perfectly healthy, perception may not always equal reality.
There are things that we can do, cut back on the amount of salt in your diet and make efforts to improve your overall eating habits by learning about heart-healthy foods, and how to prepare them. And if you’re not already active, get moving.