Heart Health Dangers Higher
for African-Americans

One half of African-American women will die of heart disease or stroke.

When evaluating a person’s risk of heart disease, you will find a number of elements that can be changed or improved: weight, exercise, and diet, for instance. What you can’t change is your genetic heritage. “When it comes to heart disease and African-Americans, the good news is hard to find – especially in South Carolina,” says McLeod Cardiologist Anil Om, MD. “Yet, the information in this article should serve as a warning for African-American men and women to monitor their hearts and reduce risks, if possible.”

African-Americans have the highest coronary heart disease death rate of any ethnic group in the US. In South Carolina, heart disease and its related risks take an average of 10 years off the life of African-Americans.

Heart disease — the organ’s failure to pump oxygen-rich blood through the body – is normally considered an older person’s disease. However, African-Americans aged 30-40 suffer heart failure at the same rate as White people who are 20 years older.

When it comes to specific risk factors, the news doesn’t improve:

  • High Blood Pressure. African-Americans have the highest blood pressure in the world. It can damage the heart, even before any symptoms appear. Half of those with high blood pressure tendencies don’t have it under control.
  • Diabetes. One out of six African-Americans in South Carolina has diabetes, 63% higher than the general population.
  • Obesity. Among African-Americans in South Carolina, 73% are overweight or obese, compared to 35% among all adults.
  • Lack of Physical Activity. Nearly 60% of South Carolina’s African-Americans don’t get enough exercise or physical activity and women exercise less than men.

You can’t control your age, your gender or your family and ethnic history, but here are tips on controlling 4 risk factors.

Atrial Fibrillation (Afib) or irregular heart has been a known risk for stroke. Recent research shows Afib is also a risk for heart attack — with African-Americans experiencing twice the risk.

FINAL THOUGHT: African-American men and women suffer heart disease 20 times more often than Caucasians. Even with all this danger lurking, there is a delay in recognizing symptoms among African-Americans. Studies show that people from this ethic group are diagnosed later than Caucasians and have more risk factors when they are finally diagnosed.

If you have any of these problems or symptoms of heart valve problems, see a cardiologist for tests and treatment options.

Find a Cardiologist near you.

Sources include: McLeod Health, SC Department of Health & Environmental Control, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, National Institutes of Health, New England Journal of Medicine, National Stroke Association, US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, American Heart Association