5 Facts About Heart Disease That Every Black Person Should Know

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What would you say if someone told you, “You have a good heart!”

Would you feel good about yourself and say thank you?

Probably.

But what if?

One day, you went to the doctor and were told, “You have a bad heart.”

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What would you say then?

You’d probably be speechless.

Heart disease is a touchy but relevant topic that should be discussed across all age groups. Your risk for the disease begins to develop as early as your childhood. Therefore, the lifestyle choices you make at a young age will have a huge impact on the health of your heart as you get older.

Here are five facts about heart disease that everyone should know:

1. Heart disease is the number one cause of deaths (1 in every 4) in the U.S. followed by stroke and cancer.

Each year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 610,000 Americans die of heart disease. And more than 700,000 people experience a heart attack every year. Almost a third of these individuals will have already had a heart attack at least once before.

2. 2015 data provided by the American Heart Association states that 70,000 black men and 60,000 black women experience a Myocardial Infarction (heart attack) or death from coronary heart disease, every year.

This means that black people account for almost 24% of all deaths from heart disease. More black men will experience a heart attack than black women, however, more black women will die within the first year following the attack.

3. A balanced diet, frequent exercise, and effective stress management strategies can help reduce risk for heart disease.

Factors such as hypertension (high blood pressure), excessive body fat, and diabetes increase your chances of developing heart disease. It is imperative to incorporate strategies for stress management and control throughout your daily life. This will deter you away from engaging in coping mechanisms that will increase your risk for heart disease such as overeating, smoking tobacco, or consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. Check out Curly Nikki’s post on worrying less here for tips on dealing with stress.

4. Chest pain, especially during physical activity, can be a sign that there is presence of disease.

When you feel tightness in your chest as a result of heart disease, your heart is working harder than normal as the arteries that supply blood to your heart have become blocked. Chest pain can sometimes be mistaken for less serious issues like gas or indigestion. This can cause a delay in diagnosis. If you or someone close to you is experiencing chest pain, fatigue, or shortness of breath during physical activity, medical evaluation is highly recommended.

5. You are not guaranteed to get heart disease just because it’s in your family history.

Regardless of whether heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is in your family history, is not the determinant of your fate. The more active you are and the healthier the foods you consume, the lower your risk for heart disease. Increasing the amount of vegetables in your diet and monitoring your intake of saturated fats are good places to start.

For more information on heart disease or other types of cardiovascular disease and how to take control of your health refer to the posts below on the American Heart Association’s website:

African-Americans and Heart Disease, Stroke
Coronary Artery Disease - Coronary Heart Disease
Managing Blood Pressure with a Heart-Healthy Diet

Use this fact sheet on heart disease provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to inform yourself of the signs and symptoms.

What can we do to help decrease the chances of heart disease in the Black community? 
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Ariel is a 23-year old SoCal native, working professional, and Alumna of the University of California, Berkeley. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and through her studies, acquired a passion for gaining knowledge that would improve the quality of her life and further allow her to interact with and touch people in a positive way. You can follow her own blog, The Freewoman Diaries, at www.thefreewomandiaries.com

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