According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. African American women are at even greater risk due to a combination of risk factors.
What is Coronary Artery Disease?
Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease. It results from a strain on the blood vessels and heart tissue, which over time can lead to a heart attack.
Reducing Your Risk
Risk factors for heart disease include ethnicity, family history and age. Once women reach menopause, the risk for disease increases greatly. It is important to visit your doctor to discuss the signs and symptoms of heart disease and what you can do to prevent it.
Luckily there are many ways to control other risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity and diabetes. Making simple changes can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in five African American women smokes. After only one year of quitting smoking, the risk for heart disease drops by more than half. There are many available resources for smoking cessation, such as medicines and treatment programs, available from your health care provider. Quitting smoking is not always easy, but it is a realistic and necessary step on the path to a healthy heart.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is another risk factor that can be prevented with a few simple changes, such as reducing sodium intake, exercising more, maintaining a healthy weight and moderating alcohol intake. Also called hypertension, high blood pressure increases your risk of heart disease, as well as stroke and congestive heart failure. African American women, compared with white women, are more likely to develop high blood pressure at a younger age. According to the federal government, nearly 40 percent of African American women have high blood pressure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity affects nearly one-third of adults in the United States, and eighty percent of black women. Obesity is not only a contributing factor to heart disease, but also diabetes, stroke, gallbladder disease, arthritis and some cancers. Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly will greatly reduce the risk of obesity.
A healthy diet includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins in reasonable portion sizes. Physicians recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five to seven days a week to maintain a healthy heart and body. Eating well and exercising regularly also helps lower blood cholesterol, which affects almost half of African American women in the United States.
Be Your Own Heart Health Advocate
For the sake of your heart health, schedule a visit with your doctor to learn if you are at risk for disease and make a plan for getting healthy. It is never too early to start taking care of yourself and your heart.
Bon Secours Heart & Vascular Institute