Ensuring Health Equity
Black Americans are at a higher risk of dying from heart disease compared to other ethnic groups. Here are some steps to reduce your risk.
As a group, Black Americans are at a higher risk of dying from heart disease compared to other ethnic groups. They are also more likely to experience hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity and Type 2 diabetes, putting them at greater risk for heart disease at a relatively young age.
And while overall heart health continues to improve in many communities, that same improvement isn’t seen in the Black American population.
Heart disease also unfairly affects those at lower socioeconomic levels and lower educational status as well as those who live in neighborhoods without easy access to grocery stores.
Genetics play a part, but not all African Americans are destined to have heart disease. There are many reversible risk factors that can help to decrease your risk. If you are concerned about the health of your heart, now is the time to take action. The earlier you find out your personal risk for heart disease, the sooner you can begin taking steps to lower that risk.
- Talk to relatives – especially the elders – to find out if you have a family history of premature heart disease (men diagnosed before age 55 and women before age 65).
- If you don’t have a primary care physician, or if it has been more than a year since you’ve seen one, call for an appointment today.
- Have your doctor order a basic blood test to check for diabetes, high cholesterol and kidney disease. Ask to have these done before your appointment, so your doctor can review the results with you during your appointment.
- If the blood test results indicate that you are at risk, ask your doctor to order a coronary calcium test, which uses a special X-ray to show if there’s cholesterol build-up in the arteries.
Whether your test results show that you’re in perfect health, or whether your body is showing early signs of conditions that could lead to heart disease in the future, there’s still time to make some key lifestyle changes to improve your health:
- Eat a heart healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, low fat dairy products and skinless poultry or fish.
- Limit red meat, fried foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, saturated fats (which occur naturally in red meat and dairy products and is also found in baked goods and fried foods) and trans fats (which occurs naturally in small amounts in red meat and dairy products, and which also can be manufactured by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil.)
- Read labels to avoid foods that are high in salt.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Engage in physical activity for at least 30 minutes several days a week.
- If you smoke, stop.
“MetroHealth has a wide range of resources to help patients manage conditions that put them at risk for heart disease,” says MetroHealth cardiologist Kathleen Quealy, MD. “For our patients with established coronary artery disease, cardiac rehabilitation is beneficial.”