The words “cardiovascular disease” (CVD), also called heart disease, describe a range of problems, including heart failure, heart attack and stroke. It describes any abnormal function of the heart or blood vessels (heart and blood vessels carry oxygen to or from the heart). CVD is the leading cause of death for men and women in the US. Someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds. Each minute in the U.S., someone dies from a heart disease-related event. Clearly, heart disease is a serious public health issue facing all Americans.
It’s important to note that there’s a difference in how African Americans suffer from CVD compared to non-African Americans. For example, African Americans are two to three times more likely to die from CVD than Whites of any age. They have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke compared with Whites. The annual rate of first heart attacks is also higher for African Americans than for Whites.
African Americans are affected by CVD and stroke at a higher rate than Whites in the U.S. When it comes to risk factors for CVD, often the focus is on the common risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and a family history of heart disease. African Americans may be at higher risk for developing some of these risk factors, like high blood pressure or diabetes, but these differences don’t completely explain why African Americans have a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. It’s important to continue studying racial differences because there are still many questions that need to be answered.  

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