The number 1 killer for all Americans is heart disease, with stroke being the fourth leading cause of death. As frightening as those statistics are the risks for African Americans is even worse. Although African Americans can improve their odds of preventing and beating heart disease by understanding the risks and taking simple steps to address them they still should work with a medical professional to address specific risk factors.
High blood pressure, obesity and diabetes are the most common conditions that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. African Americans are affected differently, but the prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans is the highest in the world. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, and can cause permanent damage to the heart before you even notice any symptoms, which is the reason it’s called the “silent killer.” Not only is high blood pressure more severe in Blacks more so than Whites, but it also develops earlier in life too for Blacks.
Studies show African Americans who may carry the gene that makes them more salt sensitive have a higher risk of high blood pressure. Although you may not be able to alter your family’s health history, but you can control how you take care of yourself now and the future to control your blood pressure. Taking control of your life can start with seeing your doctor or healthcare provider to receive the right medication(s), and make lifestyle changes that’ll give you the biggest impact to boost your health.
By keeping track of changes in blood pressure, and checking it regularly, which means notifying your doctor of any abnormal changes, you can help to control it. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, it’s suggested you check your pressure every two years, and African Americans should receive a check-up once a year if the suggested time is two years.
A major factor in African American’s dealing with the higher than normal rate of heart disease is the obesity problem within their own group, and Black Americans are disproportionately affected by obesity. Among non-Hispanic Blacks age 20 and older, 63 percent of men and 77 percent of women are overweight or obese.
You can add hundreds of calories to your diet just on snacking alone, so an apple or two would only help. Stick some carrots in a bag or something, or maybe you can dip carrots in almond butter or have peanut butter on celery. Just snack healthy, and you can eat all you want to. Even by limiting red meat in favor of lean meats such as chicken or fish, and watching portions on carbohydrate-heavy foods, such as pasta and rice, you can make huge changes in your weight. Making vegetables a part of your everyday meal plan wouldn’t hurt either. If you’re thirsty, drink water, not juice; and if it’s late and you’re hungry then you should of ate earlier— just drink some water because that fills your stomach. What are you doing eating so late anyway!?
Speaking of drinking water rather than juice, sugar is a big problem for African Americans which is the reason why Blacks are nearly twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic Whites. About 15 percent of all African Americans age 20 and older have diabetes. Diabetes can be treatable and preventable, but many people don’t recognize early warning signs, or avoid seeking treatment out of fear of complications. Many people are confused and associate the disease with older relatives who were diagnosed too late and suffered preventable complications such as blindness, amputations, or renal failure.
Diabetes and other heart diseases can be controlled, preventable, or treated by regular exercise just be strengthening the cardiovascular system. Even just walking 30 minutes per day can greatly help. No need to do a marathon now now; we don’t need dead bodies in the streets but if you just walk for 30 minutes a day your heart rate will increase and that’s enough to help you in a major way.
Some top healthy foods to help combat heart disease are acorn squash, almonds, asparagus, black and kidney beans, blueberries, broccoli, brown rice, cantaloupe, carrots, dark chocolate, ground flaxseed, oatmeal, oranges, papaya, red bell peppers, red wine (technically alcohol just being a legal drug but it’s on the list), salmon, soy milk (women should avoid soy due to hormonal reasons, but if choosing to consume then only take-in a small portion), spinach, sweet potato, tea, tofu, tomatoes, tuna, and walnuts. You may already eat or drink these on a regular basis and enjoy them, and if you don’t need a push to eat or drink these because you naturally enjoy them then you’re already in a better condition than most.