Two important facts black patients should know about heart care

February 19, 2021

Black Americans have a disproportionately higher risk for the condition.

(Paducah, Ky.) Feb. 19, 2021— Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., and black Americans have a disproportionately higher risk for the condition. 

It is estimated nearly 48 percent of black women and 44 percent of black men have some form of heart disease. While it is a condition everyone should learn more about, there are two important facts that black patients should know: 

No. 1: Increased heart disease risk in the black community is caused by multiple factors

The first thing black patients should know about their higher risk of heart disease is that it is not clearly understood. Researchers agree that the reason is “multifactorial,” but there are differing opinions on the primary reason. 

Genetics seem to play a major role in the elevated risk, and many experts believe that the genetic component may be “activated” by environmental and social factors. Some of those factors may be associated with socioeconomic status, including:

  • Lack of information on how to prevent heart disease
  • Scarcity of grocery stores near home or work that offer a variety of healthy foods
  • Lack of access to exercise facilities and parks
  • Infrequent doctor visits, which means heart disease isn’t caught early and addressed 

However, there is emerging evidence that the rate of heart disease in middle- and upper-class black communities is still higher than that of white communities of the same status. While the search for more definitive insight continues, we can all take action today to improve our heart health.

No. 2: Black Americans can lower their risk of heart disease

The second fact black patients should be aware of is that they have the power to lower the risk of heart disease and to beat the disease if already diagnosed by focusing on three conditions that contribute to the development or worsening of heart disease: High blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. 

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a condition that is very common in black Americans. Doctors call it the “silent killer” because it may cause permanent heart damage without ever noticing symptoms. Fortunately, lifestyle changes and medication can prevent or manage high blood pressure. The key is to have blood pressure checked (or check it yourself, at a pharmacy, for example) regularly to see if it is high.

Obesity also is more common in black Americans than in other groups. The good news is we can do things to control our weight, including reducing caloric intake (cutting back on snacking is helpful), limiting red meat and foods that contain a high percentage of carbohydrates (like pasta and rice), avoiding sweets and desserts and walking or getting other exercises for at least 30 minutes a day.

Black Americans are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, as well. Getting to a healthy weight using the recommendations above may help prevent diabetes. Managing diabetes properly not only reduces heart disease risk, it may help prevent complications like kidney failure, blindness and amputation. 

Take charge of your heart disease risk

Black Americans face a significant challenge in avoiding heart disease, but by talking with a doctor and managing risk factors, the odds can shifts in a healthy direction.

Concerned about your heart? Take Baptist Health’s Heart Risk Assessment today.