African Americans and Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one killer of all adults, regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. However, for African Americans, the statistics are crippling.
According to the American Heart Association,
The prevalence of high blood pressure in African-Americans is the highest in the world. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, and it can cause permanent damage to the heart before you even notice any symptoms, that’s why it is often referred to as the “silent killer.”Not only is HBP more severe in blacks than whites, but it also develops earlier in life.
Although African American adults are 40% more likely to have high blood pressure, they are 10% less likely than their non-Hispanic White counterparts to have their blood pressure under control.
In 2009, African Americans were 30% more likely to die from heart disease, as compared to non-Hispanic white men.
African American women are 1.6 times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to have high blood pressure.
Hypertension is an important cardiovascular risk factor that is measured by two numbers; systolic blood pressure over diastolic blood pressure (SBP/DBP). Both numbers are important. Systolic pressure is the maximum pressure exerted on the walls of the arteries or blood vessels. Diastolic pressure is the minimum pressure exerted on the wall of the arteries. Hypertension is defined as a repeatedly elevated blood pressure exceeding 140 over 90 mmHg — a systolic pressure above 140 with a diastolic pressure above 90.
Prehypertension is systolic pressure from 120 to 139 mmHg, or a diastolic pressure from 80 to 89 mmHg. The ideal blood pressure condition in a normal healthy person is 120/80mmHg.
Black Americans have some of the highest hypertension rates in the world. It is estimated that over 40% of African American adults have hypertension compared with less than 30% of whites. If left uncontrolled, hypertension can lead to abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, kidney failure and stroke. Hypertension is the number one risk factor for congestive heart failure, and other cardiovascular diseases.
Coronary Heart Disease
Myocardial infarction (acute heart attack) – is the interruption of blood supply to part of the heart causing some heart tissue to die. Chest pain is the most common symptom of acute myocardial infarction and is often described as a sensation of tightness, pressure, or squeezing.
Angina pectoris — chest pain or discomfort caused by reduced blood supply to the heart muscle.
In 2006, there were 425,425 deaths due to coronary heart disease in the United States (about one of every six deaths). In the same year, African American men were 30% more likely to die from heart disease than white men.
Stroke – a sudden disabling attack or loss of consciousness caused by an interruption in the flow of blood to the brain, through: Thrombosis (clotting of blood) that block a vessel (ischemic stroke), or Ruptured blood vessel causing blood to leak into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke).
African Americans are twice as likely to die from stroke as whites. The rate of first strokes in African Americans is almost double that of whites, and strokes tend to occur earlier in life for African Americans than whites. Additionally, African American stroke survivors are more likely to become disabled and experience difficulties with activities of daily living.
Heart Failure – is a condition in which anomalies with the structure or function of the heart impairs its ability to supply sufficient blood flow to meet the body’s needs. Heart failure is the leading cause of hospitalization of elderly Americans, and is a major contributor to the nations rising health care costs. African Americans are at a significantly greater risk for heart failure than whites. The early onset of heart failure in Blacks leads to increased rates of disability, hospitalization, and premature death (before the age of 65).
Other heart conditions, such as infections and conditions that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or beating rhythm also are considered forms of heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death and disability in the United States.
The following are some important risk factors that can predict the likelihood of cardiovascular disease:
- High blood pressure
- Family history of heart disease
- Advancing age
- Cigarette smoking
- Hypercholesterolemia (abnormal blood cholesterol levels)
- Lack of physical activity/sedentary lifestyle
- Obesity (defined by a body mass index of more than 30 kg/m²).
The more risk factors a person has, the greater the likelihood of developing heart disease. Heredity, gender, and age cannot be modified, but the others can be influenced by the individual’s behavior.
Exercise. People who exercise tend to live longer and have less cardiovascular disease than those who do not. A well-designed exercise program can increase stamina and endurance, lower blood pressure, improve blood cholesterol levels, help with weight control, help lower abnormal blood sugar levels, reduce stress, improve sleep, and help prevent osteoporosis.
Good nutrition. Eating well can reduce one’s risk of many chronic diseases; including cardiovascular disease. One result of poor nutrition, coupled with inactivity, is the risk of overweight. Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In addition to amounts, the types of foods consumed can affect health. Most Americans(>70%) eat fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and other health- protective nutrients. Eating 8 – 10 servings of fruits and vegetables and three servings of high quality pastured dairy foods each day has been shown to decrease blood pressure.
New research shows that the traditional theory of saturated fats and high cholesterol contributing to heart disease is wrong. According to Dr. Dwight Lundell, MD, the real nutritional culprit contributing to heart disease is inflammation in the artery wall, caused by the low fat diet recommended by mainstream medicine. As Dr. Lundell states, this diet is:
the overload of simple, highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour and all the products made from them) and the excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods.
Eating a diet full of fresh vegetables, high quality fats in the form of coconut oil, grass fed (pastured) meats and dairy products, drinking plenty of water, and exercising daily will decrease the chances of heart disease.
Don’t smoke. Smokers have a significantly greater risk for cardiovascular disease than nonsmokers.
Know your numbers. Everyone should know and regularly monitor their blood pressure. People with hypertension should work with their health care provider to keep their blood pressure under control
100 Black Men of America: Cardiovascular Disease
American Heart Association: African Americans and Heart Disease, Stroke April 13, 2013
PreventDisease.com: World Renown Heart Surgeon Speaks Out On What Really Causes Heart Disease March 1, 2012