Heart disease or cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to medical conditions or diseases that affect the heart or the blood vessels in the heart. There are many conditions that fall under the umbrella of heart disease. The most common are:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Heart attack (cardiac arrest)
- Coronary artery disease
- Congestive heart failure
Heart Disease Risk Factors
Some people are born with heart disease and other people develop heart disease over time because they have one or more risk factors such as:
- High blood pressure that is not properly managed
- High cholesterol (high LDL and low HDL)
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Physical inactivity
- Uncontrolled stress, depression and anger
- Poor diet
- Poorly controlled diabetes
There are other factors that may influence your risk for developing heart disease that are out of your control like age and family history. For many people however, heart disease is preventable.
Black Women and Heart Disease
We are all at risk of developing heart disease. In fact, it is the leading cause of death for all Americans. However, some groups have an increased risk for developing heart disease. Black women face an increased risk for developing heart disease compared to women of other races. Here’s why:
- African American women are 60 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, as compared to non-Hispanic white women.
- About 80% of Black women are overweight and 51% are obese
- Approximately half of Black women born in the year 2000 and beyond will likely develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime
- 55% of Black women do not exercise
Although Black women are at risk for developing heart disease, there are things they can do to protect their health.
Improving Your Heart Health
There are many things you can do to protect yourself from heart disease:
- Know your family health history
- Change your diet – avoid salty foods and eat more fruits and vegetable
- Stop smoking
- Manage stress
- Get enough sleep
Choose a primary care doctor you trust and get regular check-ups. If you have hypertension or diabetes, follow your doctor’s recommendations. Encourage your family and friends to support your efforts to stay healthy. Many churches, fitness centers and workplaces offer incentives and opportunities to engage in healthy behaviors. Finally, connect with others online, download a health app or use a digital activity tracker to support your health goals.