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The Heart Truth Women of Color Initiative: Heart Disease Risk in African-American Women

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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.

Remember, each one of these percentages represents a real, live woman and not some abstract concept. The Heart Truth® Women of Color initiative is a campaign specifically designed to help change these statistics. (The Women of Color initiative focuses on spreading the word about heart disease to both African-American and Hispanic women.) The Heart Truth, along with several community sponsors ― National Latina Health Network (NLHN), National Coalition of Pastors’ Spouses (NCPS), The Links, Incorporated, and Favaloro Foundation (in the Republic of Argentina) ― sponsored numerous heart health events such as heart disease risk screenings, education sessions, walking clubs, workshops, and other community events to raise awareness of heart disease. These events were offered directly in the communities where women live in an effort to specifically reach those who might be unaware of their risk factors.

To get involved and help spread the word, or to see a list of all the Women of Color Partner Organizations (such as the Miss Black USA Pageant, Black Women’s Health Imperative, and ESSENCE magazine), check out The Heart Truth Women of Color initiative a http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/educational/hearttruth/partners/women-of-color-partners.htm.

Lover Your Heart: Cardiovascular Disease in African-American Women, American Heart Association, http://www.americanheart.org/downloadable/heart/120274881392306-0282A_AfAmHispNwslttr_LR.pdf

Lower Heart Disease Risk: The Heart Truth - Lower Heart Disease Risk, National Heart Lung & Blood Institute, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/educational/hearttruth/lower-risk/risk-factors.htm

About The Heart Truth, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/educational/hearttruth/about/index.htm

Add a Comment4 Comments


Hello Lady Theresa! Congratulations on being voted as Leading Lady in Go Red for Women - that is so exciting and I'd love to hear more!

Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I couldn't agree with you more, especially on the need for more education and testing in rural areas. Most of my family still lives in a very rural area of Texas and I've observed a real lack of health screenings/health fairs, along with limited choice of physicians. Heart disease runs in my birth family but i have a brother who is African-American and a sister who is Hispanic. I began exploring the role of ethnicity and heart disease because I wanted to know how to tell my sister to protect her heart health as well.

It sounds like you and I are on the same page! Please write again and let me know if there are Go Red events we should be aware of.

November 9, 2010 - 10:46pm
EmpowHER Guest

I am a recently voted in Western MASS Leading Lady In Go Red For Women and wish to thank you for your post on this. Heart Disease is thriving among women of color and as an advocate who happens to be African American n multicultural, I would really love to see more advocacy in rural urban districts to offer preventative and wellness management in regards to Heart Disease. My biggest pet peave is that people need to demand more from their doctors if they suspect in family history they are symptomatic and need further testing. Not always easily detectable and can reduce the deterioration of heart muscle and get person on right track healthwise if caught early. God Bless You Lady Theresa Eckstein!

October 18, 2010 - 10:38am

Hi Anon....Thanks so much for posting and please - help spread the word. So much of heart disease is preventable IF women only know. Thanks for reading. Mary

October 13, 2010 - 7:16pm
EmpowHER Guest

It's an interesting discussion – and I agree with you.

October 13, 2010 - 5:41pm
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