This month, we celebrate Black history honoring not only past accomplishments of Black excellence, but also recognizing current history-makers. This month also serves as American Heart Month, aimed at raising awareness about heart health and preventing heart disease, which disproportionately impacts African Americans.
Despite progress, ongoing health disparities remain a challenge for the African American community.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, and African Americans are particularly at risk. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, African Americans are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than white Americans.
- According to Blackdoctor.org more African American men die from heart attacks associated with stress more than any other ethnic group in the United States.
- Stroke is identified as being 67% higher in African American men than other ethnic groups and are 88% more likely to die from a stroke than Caucasians.
- According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases kill more than 50,000 Black women annually. Among Black women ages 20 years and older, nearly 58% have high blood pressure and only around 20% of those women have their blood pressure under control.
“A lot of this has to do with socioeconomic factors and having access to quality healthcare,” says Dr. Christopher Irobunda, interventional cardiologist at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “We must ask ourselves, what are the barriers to people getting quality healthcare? Do they have insurance? Does their job create added stress or limited time that impacts their health? These are all complex issues that we must consider.”
Despite these alarming statistics, there are steps that African Americans can take to reduce their risk of heart disease and improve their heart health and quality of life.
Here are five ways to improve heart health:
- Manage Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is considered the silent killer. Know your numbers, regular monitoring of blood pressure is essential for preventing heart disease. Blood pressure at or below 120/80 mm Hg is the goal.
- Control Diabetes: If you have diabetes, it's important to manage your blood sugar levels and follow your doctor's recommended treatment plan.
- Healthy Diet: Eat well-balanced meals, low in salt rich in potassium with added fruits and vegetables and minimize highly processed foods.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity helps to improve cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of heart disease. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate activity can have long-term health benefits.
- Quit Smoking: It’s one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of heart disease. If you can’t stop cold turkey explore smoking cessation programs.
Heart disease is a serious matter, but proactive measures can help to lower the risks while enhancing overall health and well-being. Adopting healthy habits such as eating a well-balanced diet and incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can aid in managing blood pressure, controlling diabetes and can help decrease the likelihood of heart disease and stroke. Take care of your heart health today.
For more information on heart disease prevention visit heart.org and here for more information about women's heart health.