Currently, education for heart disease is better than it has ever been before. There are more education programs and more national (and international) campaigns than ever before. Churches, hospitals, corporate sponsors, and so forth have jumped on the bandwagon and partnered with health agencies to spread the word about heart disease ― namely that it’s the number one killer of women in the U.S. and, more importantly, that it’s preventable. Despite the abundance of available heart health education, many of our sisters remain unaware of their risk factors for heart disease and too many continue to leave us prematurely as a result.
In comparison to women of Latino (Hispanic) or northern European (white) descent, African-American women have a much greater risk for developing heart disease, suffering a stroke, or even dying of heart disease than their counterparts from other ethnicities. The truly tragic part is that according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, many remain unaware of their risk factors for heart disease despite the various education programs and national campaigns out there working to prevent heart disease. At present, it’s estimated that 49 percent of all African-American women have some type of heart, or heart related disease (including stroke and cardiovascular disease or CAD) and yet, only 21 percent even realize that they are at risk.
Risk factors for heart disease include: age (over 55 for women), obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, family history, diabetes, and physical inactivity. Consider the following facts regarding heart disease risk factors in African-American women:
• CAD death rate is higher in African-American women than their white and Hispanic counterparts
• Almost 80 percent of African-American women or either overweight or obese (statistic apply to women over the age of 20 years)
• 17 percent smoke
• Almost 26 percent of African-American women are physically inactive
• 52 percent have high blood pressure
• 14 percent have diabetes
• Most African-American women have at least one major risk factor for heart disease.