By Lisa L Sumlin, PhD, APRN, ACNS-BC
Lisa L Sumlin is the founder of EPaD Inc., a chronic disease consultancy, keynote speaker and author of The Struggle IS REAL! Diabetes Management For Women Who Love Their Cultural Dishes. Connect with her about health education, and chronic disease management at drlisasumlin on LinkedIn, twitter, Facebook, and drlisasumlin.com.
When you look at this photo, what do you see? A happy family? A mixture of male, female, adults, and kids? All of that is true, but this photo also shows a population of people at high risk for heart disease.
Did you know that about one in four deaths in the U.S. each year is from heart disease? It’s even more common if you’re a female and African American. As we look back at February, celebrating Black History month and American Heart Month, it’s important to highlight the correlation of the two moments moving forward throughout the year.
Heart Disease is the number one killer of all Americans, but the rate is higher among African Americans. Black Americans carry a lot of the risk factors for heart disease. Here’s a look at what heart disease is and why the risk factors can be higher for this population.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease is also known as Coronary Artery Disease. Coronary arteries are blood vessels that supply the heart with blood. Every cell, muscle and organ need blood to get oxygen and nutrients to live. Once there is a lack of oxygen and nutrients, that cell, muscle or organ dies.
In heart disease these arteries become clogged with cholesterol and plaque.
Think of plaque that builds up on your teeth – the more you do not brush your teeth, the more plaque builds up. You can get this similar build up inside of your blood vessels. When this build-up occurs, the interior of the blood vessel becomes smaller. resulting in decreased oxygen and nutrients to the area that the blood vessel supplies blood to. Plaque can build up to a point where it breaks off leading to a complete block, resulting in cells, tissue and muscle dying, thus leading to a heart attack.
How does it impact the African American community?
The conditions that can lead to heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and high stress. Each of these conditions African Americans are more at risk for developing. For example, African Americans are 60 percent more likely to develop diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.
How can you help prevent heart disease?
You can decrease your risk for heart disease by either preventing these other chronic conditions or by making sure that you are keeping your blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and stress levels under control:
- Quit smoking
- Develop good sleeping habits and get seven to nine hours of sleep a night
- Create healthy eating habits and incorporate more foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat
- Exercise regularly for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week)
- Finding healthy ways to decrease stress.
Let us get heart healthy, together!