People of all ages, genders, races and ethnicities are at risk for heart disease. However, certain populations, including African-Americans, are at higher risk than others. According to a New England Journal of Medicine study, cited by WebMD, researchers found that African-Americans have a much higher incidence of heart failure than other races, and it develops at younger ages.
The study found that before age 50, the heart failure rate for African-Americans is 20 times higher than that of whites. The four risk factors identified as the strongest predictors of heart failure were high blood pressure (or hypertension), chronic kidney disease, being overweight, and having low levels of HDL, also known as “good cholesterol.” The study also found that three-fourths of African-Americans who develop heart failure have high blood pressure by age 40.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, remains the primary killer of Americans. Recent studies have shown that nearly 44 percent of African-American men and 48 percent of African-American women have some form of cardiovascular disease.
Why are African-Americans hardest hit by cardiovascular disease? One factor, says the CDC, that may contribute to this disparity is that African-Americans develop high blood pressure more often, and at an earlier age, than whites and Mexican-Americans do. Among African-Americans, more women than men have the condition.
When it comes to reducing your risk for heart disease and stroke, being proactive in terms of your health, daily habits and consulting with your doctor, all play a big role in improving your well-being. The CDC suggests the following:
Take aspirin: Ask your health care professional if aspirin can lower your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have a family history of heart disease and be clear about your own medical history.
Control your blood pressure: High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis. You can check your blood pressure at home, at a pharmacy or at a doctor’s office. Making even small lifestyle changes, like reducing salt in your diet and being physically active, can reduce high blood pressure.
Manage cholesterol: Cholesterol is a substance that your body needs, but when you have too much in your blood, it can build up on the walls of your arteries. This can lead to heart disease and stroke. Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Your cholesterol levels can be checked regularly through a simple blood test and your doctor can recommend ways to lower your bad cholesterol if it’s too high.
Don’t smoke: About 30 percent of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking. Smoking is a major cause of coronary artery disease, and smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you’re a smoker, quit as soon as possible. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.