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Heart Health in the Black Community: How to Reduce Your Risk

Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States.

But in the Black community, the occurrence of heart disease is higher.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black men and women are 20% more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic whites.

Health problems that increase the risk of heart disease are common in Black communities, including:

  • Being overweight
  • Having diabetes
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having high cholesterol
  • Having diabetes

Check out these alarming facts from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

 African American women age 20 and older: 80% are overweight, 46% have high blood pressure, 33% have high cholesterol and 13% have been diagnosed with diabetes.

 African American men age 20 and older: 70% are overweight, 44% have high blood pressure, 30% have high cholesterol and 15% have been diagnosed with diabetes.

It's also worth noting that people with poor cardiovascular health are also at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

But there are things you can do to improve your health and protect your heart.

Protect Your Heart

You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Each small step you take toward improving your heart health can lead to big results.

Here are some tips to get you started.

  1. Watch your weight. 

    Even a small weight loss of 5 to 7% will make a difference if you're overweight. The best way to lose weight is to set a reasonable goal and lose it slowly. A good goal is losing 1/2 pound to 1 pound a week. Check out our health library to learn more about why you need to watch your weight. 

  2. Eat heart-healthy foods.

    The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan can help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Research shows it's much more effective at improving cholesterol levels and lowering blood pressures than the Standard American Diet (SAD).

    Watch this video to learn how easy it can be to improve your health by eating right.

  3. Improve your sleep.

    Try to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night to improve your heart health. Reducing stress and getting 30 minutes of sunlight a day will help you sleep, so consider taking an afternoon walk.

    Sticking to a regular bedtime and turning off your screens before going to bed also helps. Listen to relaxing music, read or take a bath instead of looking at your phone or watching TV before bed.

  4. Manage your stress.

    Reduce stress to improve your heart health. Set a goal to do a relaxing activity every day. Do yoga, go for a walk, do yoga, meditate or participate in a stress-management program online.

  5. Move more.

    Get more physical activity. Whatever activity you decide to do, make sure it's something you enjoy so you don't quit after two weeks. Sign up for an online exercise class, do jumping jacks or jump rope with the kids. Dancing in your living room also counts as physical activity.

  6. Quit smoking.

Avoiding tobacco smoke is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. Quitting smoking will not only improve your health but also the health of those around you. Secondhand smoke is also dangerous to heart health — even nonsmokers can die of heart disease or stroke caused by secondhand smoke.

To learn more about heart disease risk factors and prevention — including how to recognize symptoms, prevent a heart attack and live a heart-healthy lifestyle, visit Tanner Heart Care

Tanner Medical Group

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