Learn more about how heart disease affects African Americans

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for all Americans. But did you know that Black Americans are more likely to suffer heart failure and even more likely for heart failure to happen earlier in their lives?

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Heart Disease Risk Factors in Black Americans

There are many risk factors for heart disease, but the most common predictors of heart disease in Black Americans are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Low levels of “good” cholesterol also known as HDL

High blood pressure significantly increases your chances of developing heart disease and the prevalence of high blood pressure in Black Americans is extremely high. Some research shows Black Americans have a gene that make them more sensitive to salt and in turn increases their chances of develop high blood pressure.

Additionally, Black Americans are also more likely to be overweight and have higher rates of diabetes.

Not only are Black Americans with these risk factors more likely to develop heart disease, but they’re also prone to develop these conditions much earlier than Caucasians. In fact, before the age of 50, Black Americans have a 20 times higher likelihood of developing heart disease as compared to Caucasians.

Seeking Medical Care: Heart Disease Treatment Options

Despite their risk of developing heart disease and related conditions, research shows Black Americans are less likely to receive the screenings and routine check-ups needed to diagnose heart disease early.

All too often, many patients do not seek treatment until they’re showing symptoms of a heart problem. And when you’re experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath, heart disease has likely affected you for many years.

Overall, Black Americans specifically are less likely than other patients to use their primary care physicians (PCP) for preventative screenings. Making the problem worse: When Black American patients seek treatment from their PCP they are less likely to be referred to a specialist.

Preventing Heart Disease in Black Americans

The 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.

Looking for more ways to boost your heart health? Read our guide to heart-healthy dieting and heart health and exercise.

The importance of heart screenings

Cardiovascular screenings are key to detecting risk factors for heart disease — and may even serve as a wake-up call for patients to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Heart 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:

Learn 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).

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.