February 03, 2021

The 2 Most Important Things Every Black Patient Should Know About Heart Risk and Heart Care

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and Black Americans have a disproportionately higher risk for the condition. It’s estimated that nearly 48% of Black women and 44% of Black men have some form of heart disease. Consequently, it’s a condition that everyone should learn more about. In particular, there are two things that Black patients should know, as explained below. 

#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 isn’t clearly understood. Researchers agree that the reason is “multifactorial,” but there are differing opinions on what the primary reason is. 

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’s 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. So, the search for more definitive insight continues. 

But you can take action today to improve your heart health.

#2: Black Americans Can Lower Their Risk of Heart Disease

The second fact that Black patients should be aware of is that you have the power to lower your risk of heart disease and to beat the disease if you’ve been diagnosed with it. You may do that 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’s very common in Black Americans. Doctors call it the “silent killer” because it may cause permanent heart damage without you ever noticing any symptoms. Fortunately, you can use lifestyle changes and medication to prevent or manage high blood pressure. The key is to have your blood pressure checked (or check it yourself, at a pharmacy, for example) regularly so you know if it’s high.

Obesity is also more common in Black Americans than in other groups. Here again, there are things you can do to control your weight. They include reducing your 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. And if you develop the condition, managing it properly not only reduces your heart disease risk, it may help prevent complications like kidney failure, blindness, and amputation. 

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

Take Charge of Your Heart Disease Risk

There’s no question that Black Americans face a significant challenge in avoiding heart disease. But by talking with your doctor and managing the factors within your control that elevate your risk of developing heart disease, you may be able to shift the odds in your favor.

Learn More About Heart Care with Baptist Health

Learn more about Baptist Health Heart Care and the services we offer or take our free Heart Health Assessment today and find out if you’re at risk.

Next Steps and Useful Resources:

What’s the Difference Between a Stroke and a Heart Attack?
Are High Fat Foods Good for Your Heart?
Find a Heart Care Provider
Read More in the Patient Story Library

Learn More.