Heart Disease and Stroke for African Americans

Every ethnic group faces varying risks for different diseases and health problems. But African Americans have especially high odds of developing heart disease and experiencing a stroke. African Americans have twice the risk of dying from a stroke and are 1.5 times more likely to die of heart disease than non-Hispanic whites.

African Americans also tend to have higher rates of risk factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease, including:

Heart Disease and Stroke for African Americans

Cigarette smoking: According to the American Heart Association, approximately 24 percent of non-Hispanic black men and 17 percent of non-Hispanic black women smoke cigarettes. The odds of developing coronary heart disease are two to four times higher for a smoker compared to a nonsmoker.

High blood pressure: More than 40 percent of African American adults have this silent killer. African Americans develop high blood pressure at an earlier age and their blood pressure average is significantly higher compared to whites.

High cholesterol: Among African Americans age 20 and older, approximately 44 percent of men and 42 percent of women have total blood cholesterol over the recommended level of 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter of blood).African Americans develop high blood pressure at an earlier age and their blood pressure average is significantly higher compared to whites.

Physical activity: Only 17.2% of non-Hispanic blacks age 18 and older met the 2008 Federal Physical Activity Guidelines. Of that, 24.6% of males and 11.2% of females met the recommendations.

Weight: More than 50 percent of African American women and 37 percent of African American men are overweight and obese.

Diabetes: More than 3 million adult African Americans have diabetes, a progressive disease that can increase the risk of stroke as well as lead to blindness, kidney or nerve disease, and limb amputations. African American women are twice as likely to have diabetes compared to white women.

You can’t change some risk factors for heart disease and stroke, such as age, gender, heredity, and having a prior stroke or heart attack. But you can set goals today and make lifestyle changes to help you live a longer, healthier life.

Cigarette smoking: Stop smoking. Ask your doctor to recommend a smoking cessation program that can work for you.

High blood pressure: High blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg usually cannot be cured, but it can be controlled through medication or changing daily habits. Blood pressure should be checked every two years if normal or more frequently if elevated.

High cholesterol: Cholesterol can be lowered by eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking and losing weight. Cholesterol should be checked once every five years or more often if you have a history of heart disease or had a heart attack.

Physical activity: At least 30 minutes of physical activity is recommended on most days of the week. Walking, swimming or dancing can help increase your fitness level and capacity for exercise.

Weight: You can reduce heart disease risk factors by losing as little as 10 to 20 pounds. Work with your doctor to develop a sensible weight loss plan.

Diabetes: Have blood sugar levels checked regularly, especially if you have a history of diabetes in your family.

For more information about African Americans, heart disease and stroke, visit the American Heart Association website at www.heart.org.