DOCTOR IS IN: African-Americans, thy enemy is heart disease

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.

  • William A. Cooper, MD, is an assistant professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Emory University School of Medicine, and also Medical Director of Cardiovascular Surgery at WellStar Kennestone Hospital.
  • For more information on cardiovascular health, please visit Emory’s Heart Stories or on African American health.

(Information provided by Emory on this site is intended solely for general educational purposes and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other health provider for any questions you may have regarding your health and medical condition. If you rely on any information available through this website, you do so at your own risk. You understand that you are solely responsible for any damage or loss you may incur that results from your use of or reliance on any material or information provided by Emory through this website.)

3 comments Add your comment

Mike Stempek

March 3rd, 2009
5:44 pm

Enter your comments here

Cleva Watson

September 2nd, 2009
5:07 pm

Thnks for the good advice! However African Americans need more access to fresh fruits & vegatables We need more urban community gardens.

Kia Ren

November 13th, 2009
2:17 pm is awarding you as top resource and if you would like to get the banner, please email me back with the subject line as your URL to avoid Spam and also to make sure that you only get the banner.