The Extreme Significance of African American Heart Health

As many of you may know, February is Black History Month! We take this time to remember and honor all of the leaders who have come before us and paved the way for many of the freedoms we have today. However not only is it Black History Month, but it is also American Heart Month. It is imperative that we, the African American community, take extreme precautions when it comes to our heart health. Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans, however African Americans are statistically at a greater risk. According to Boston Scientific’s healthy equity initiative, Close the Gap, black men (44%) and women (49%) have higher rates of heart disease than white men (37%) and women (32%). Also, The annual rate for first heart attacks and first strokes is higher in African American communities. The three major conditions that significantly affect African Americans and contribute to heart disease and stroke are diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.


Diabetes is defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. This chronic condition is associated with extremely high levels of sugar in the blood. Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, is what lowers a person’s blood sugar and keeps it at a stable rate. The lack of insulin or an inability of the body to properly use insulin is the actual cause of diabetes. African Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with this condition compared to white Americans according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. When it comes to diabetes, there are modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors that can increase your chances of contracting this chronic illness. Some of the modifiable risk factors include being overweight or obese, being physically inactive, and the condition of high blood pressure. Even though non-modifiable risk factors are beyond your control, it is important to be aware of these factors so that you can live your life in the most healthy way possible to not increase your risks any more than they already are. Non-modifiable risk factors include your family history, race or ethnic background, and age.


Many of us may realize that a number of our family members are victims of the “silent killer.” That being high blood pressure. That is because high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is most common in African Americans worldwide. Hypertension increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and has the potential to damage your heart before you even notice it. Because scientists suggest that African Americans carry a gene that makes them more sensitive to salt, heart disease prevention starts with the way in which we eat. It is important that we maintain a healthy, balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, protein and grains. Not only is your diet important, but also the fact that you exercise and stay active.


Lastly, obesity is another main contributor to the battle of heart health within the African American community. According to the American Heart Association, among black Americans over 20, 63 percent of men and 77 percent of women are overweight or obese. Snacking contributes to a lot of the calories consumed in a day. It is important to watch how, when and what you eat. It is important to limit the amount of red meat, carbohydrates and sugars you consume.


Eating healthy is pretty much the main theme when it comes to keeping your heart healthy. Make sure you are taking that into consideration especially as African Americans are at such high risk. Maintain a balanced diet and an active lifestyle so that you can live a long, happy, healthy life!