By William A. Cooper, MD
You may know this already: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. For the African-American community, heart disease takes an even greater toll, more so than any other racial and ethnic group.
Did you know that while the mortality rate for white Americans has declined by 20 percent in recent years, the decrease has been only 13 percent for African Americans? In addition, African Americans have a 40 percent higher chance of dying from coronary artery disease than whites.
You may know this too: the major risk factors contributing to cardiovascular disease are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, cigarette smoking, excessive body weight and physical inactivity.
Some people have already accepted that heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes are just a way of life in the African-American community. Perhaps your parents had high blood pressure and died young. Or everyone in the family has diabetes. Maybe mom was obese and never exercised and dad ate fried dishes all his life. You do not need to believe that you’ll automatically have those problems too. You need to realize that.
Heart disease is a problem for both women and men. However, some women may not think they will have a heart attack and can be more likely to delay seeking emergency treatment. African-American and Hispanic American/Latina women tend to have more risk factors than white women. Risk factors for women of color include obesity, lack of physical activity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Here’s the good news: Make simple choices and lifestyles changes. That makes a huge difference in lowering blood pressure, preventing diabetes and, yes, heart disease.
If you’re African American and feel you’re at risk, go see the doctor at least once a year. Check your blood pressure. Pay close attention to what you eat. Stay away from the food you know is dangerous: High fat, low fiber, high salt and fried food. Be more active. And, please, please, watch your weight.
Atlanta, what has been your experience? Share your stories, share your ideas. Post.
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