According to the most recent statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO), heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for around 16% of the world's total deaths . Across the United States, these statistics remain applicable with estimates suggesting that both heart disease and stroke account for nearly one out of every three deaths in America. And for Black Americans, the risk of both diseases is even greater.
The link between Black Americans and the risk of heart disease isn’t new and many studies have been undertaken to find the answer to this link. While findings note that there are lifestyle factors that play a role, the American Heart Association (AHA) states that there are also specific risk factors more common in Black Americans that can increase the risk of heart disease .
Amongst it all, there is some good news - these risk factors can be treated and in some instances, prevented. These are just some of the most common risk factors of heart disease in Black Americans and what’s important to know about each.
#1 High blood pressure
Blood pressure is a measure of the exertion your heart uses to pump blood around your body. Our blood pressure can change throughout the day, however, if your blood pressure is consistently higher than average, you may be diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African American men and women have higher rates of high blood pressure than any other racial or ethnic group across the U.S . Studies suggest that this is linked to higher rates of diabetes and obesity, something that can contribute to high blood pressure.
Lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your blood pressure so for healthier levels, consider:
- Reducing salt and sugar in your diet
- Keeping stress to a minimum
- Staying active
If you’re concerned about your blood pressure or heart health, you can check in from home with LetsGetChecked’s Diabetes and Heart Test.
#2 Family history
Like so many other health conditions and diseases, a person’s risk of developing heart disease increases if there is a family history of it. Mayo Clinic notes that this risk is particularly strong if a parent or sibling developed heart disease at an early age - before the age of 55 for a male relative and before the age of 65 for a female relative .
Considering that heart disease is more prevalent amongst Black Americans, a family history of the disease is quite common. And while this risk factor is one that you may not have much control over, there are lifestyle changes you can make to put yourself in the best position to control other common risk factors within your control. This includes:
- Not smoking
- Keeping salt intake and saturated fats to a small amount
- Controlling other related conditions such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes
Diabetes refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood sugar or glucose. While prediabetes and gestational diabetes can potentially be reversed, type 1 and type 2 diabetes are considered more chronic - these are also the more common types of diabetes seen in Black Americans.
According to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes in the United States . A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that obesity in the community is one of the driving factors.
It’s important to remember that while you can’t prevent type 1 diabetes, you can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes - even if you’re at high risk. Some prevention tips include:
- Regular exercise
- Sticking to a healthy weight
- Following a balanced diet
If you have a family history of diabetes, are presenting with symptoms, or would like to determine your risk, you can test from home with LetsGetChecked’s Diabetes Test.
Obesity is common across the U.S. and according to the CDC, the prevalence continues to increase across the country. It has also become a growing concern in the Black American community. Obesity can lead to a number of health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Statistics from the American Psychological Association (APA) estimate that nearly 48 percent of African American adults are obese . While obesity is a complex issue that can result from a number of both societal and lifestyle factors, there are some steps that you can take to help maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of other related health conditions which are pretty similar to any tips mentioned above, including:
- Exercising regularly
- Following a balanced diet
If you are concerned about your heart health, it’s important to check in! You can now do this from the comfort of your couch with LetsGetChecked’s range of tests, these include our Diabetes and Heart Test and our Cholesterol Test. If your test results are abnormal, one of our nurses will get in touch to provide support and advice. If suitable, you can also choose to get treated with our Cholesterol CarePathway™, our at-home care, and treatment plan.
- World Health Organization. Top 10 Causes of Death. Online: Who.int
- American Heart Association. African Americans and Heart Disease, Stroke. Online: Heart.org
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 5 Surprising Facts About High Blood Pressure. Online: Cdc.gov
- Mayo Clinic. Heart Disease. Online: Mayoclinic.org
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Diabetes and African Americans. Online: Minorityhealth.hhs.gov
- American Psychological Association. Ethnicity and Health in America Series: Obesity in the African-American Community. Online: Apa.org.)