Did you know that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women? Diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and a family history of heart disease are major risk factors. Research shows these conditions are unnervingly prevalent in Black American communities. In fact, death from heart disease is more common among Black than white women.
What is heart disease?
The term “heart disease” refers to several types of conditions, such as:
- Coronary Artery Disease: caused by plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart; often leads to heart attack
- Arrythmia: irregular heartbeat (too fast or too slow)
- Cardiomyopathy: makes it harder for your heart to pump blood to the rest of your body; can lead to heart failure
Why is it more common in Black American women?
Studies show Black American women have the highest hypertension (high blood pressure) rates in the world, one of the major risk factors of heart disease. Researchers have also found that a gene may make Black Americans much more sensitive to the effects of salt, which in turn increases the risk for developing high blood pressure.
Dr. Nicole Thomas-Sealey, Vice President of Clinical Education at AdvantageCare Physicians, says that according to CDC’s Healthy People 2030, Black women are twice as likely to have heart disease, mainly related to having the highest prevalence of diabetes and obesity and 2nd highest prevalence of high cholesterol and hypertension.
What can you do to lower your risk?
“The history of the mistreatment and health inequities of Black women, in the not too far past – and present – has led to a feeling of mistrust for many. It is very important for all providers to be aware of these concerns very early in the patient-provider relationship and address the need for trust to improve patient outcomes,” says Dr. Thomas-Sealey.
“Once this barrier is removed, many Black women that may have been resistant will be opened to reducing the risk factors related to heart disease. Trust, open conversation and respect are key elements to tackling many disease processes.”
Since research shows that Black American women may be less likely than others to receive preventive treatment including medicines to lower blood pressure and advice from doctors or nurses about weight control and quitting smoking, patient education and empowerment can be tools to help women advocate for themselves during medical appointments. Follow these tips:
- Know the signs and symptoms of heart disease.
- Review your family’s heart health history and share it with your medical provider.
- Find a Primary Care Provider with whom you feel comfortable; EmblemHealth members can find an in-network doctor here.
- Don’t skip your annual physical.
Want to know more? Click here to listen to AdvantageCare Physicians experts talk more about women’s heart health.