Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for all Americans. But did you know African Americans are more likely to suffer heart failure and even more likely for heart failure to happen earlier in their lives?\nHeart Disease Risk Factors in African Americans\nThere are many risk factors for heart disease, but the most common predictors of heart disease in African Americans are:\n\nHigh blood pressure\nObesity\nChronic kidney disease\nLow levels of \u201cgood\u201d cholesterol also known as HDL\n\nHigh blood pressure significantly increases your chances of developing heart disease and the prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans is extremely high. Some research shows African Americans have a gene that make them more sensitive to salt and in turn increases their chances of develop high blood pressure.\nAdditionally, African Americans are also more likely to be overweight and have higher rates of diabetes.\nNot only are African Americans with these risk factors more likely to develop heart disease, they\u2019re also prone to develop these conditions much earlier than Caucasians. In fact, before the age of 50, African Americans have a 20 times higher likelihood of developing heart disease as compared to Caucasians.\nSeeking Medical Care: Heart Disease Treatment Options\nDespite their risk of developing heart disease and related conditions, research shows African Americans are less likely to receive the screenings and routine check-ups needed to diagnose heart disease early.\nAll too often, many patients do not seek treatment until they\u2019re showing symptoms of a heart problem. And when you\u2019re experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath, heart disease has likely affected you for many years.\nOverall, African Americans specifically are less likely than other patients to use their primary care physicians (PCP) for preventative screenings. Making the problem worse: When African American patients seek treatment from their PCP they are less likely to be referred to a specialist.\nPreventing Heart Disease in African Americans\nThe first step in preventing heart disease is simple: Schedule regular check-ups with your PCP. Adults should visit their doctor at least once each year. At your annual visit, your PCP can recommend screenings based on your age, health, and family history of heart disease.\nLooking for more ways to boost your heart health? Read our guide to heart-healthy dieting and heart health and exercise.\nThe importance of heart screenings\nCardiovascular screenings are key to detecting risk factors for heart disease \u2014 and may even serve as a wake-up call for patients to adopt a healthier lifestyle.\nHeart screenings should begin at age 20 and the frequency of visits and follow-up care depend on your unique risk level. Heart screenings usually involve testing factors including:\n\nWeight and Body Mass Index\nWaist circumference\nBlood pressure\nCholesterol\nBlood Glucose\n\nLearn more about free heart screenings in the Pittsburgh region. For more, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute website or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).