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African Americans and Heart Disease

As the nation commemorates February 2016 as Black History Month and Heart Health Month, respectively, I urge and challenge each of us and the community in general to pay particular attention to advancing personal, physical, spiritual, emotional and mental health and wellness. For the past several decades, heart disease has been the leading cause of death among Americans, with an increasingly high number of heart failure cases occurring among persons ages 50 years or younger, and overwhelmingly African American.
Every year, Americans suffer 1.5 million heart attacks and strokes. According to the research, between the ages of 45 and 64, Black men have a 70 per cent higher risk and Black women have a 50 percent greater risk of developing heart failure than White men and women. Additionally, the prevalence of high blood pressure or hypertension, among Black Americans is among the highest in the world.
So let’s make February 2016 a “Call to Action” month by recommitting to a few simply steps to take charge of your health. First, take the initiative to know your risk factors. While no one can change one’s heredity or age, each of us can take control over a number of the other risk factors. Second, get regular check-ups and talk to your doctor to help assess your heart health and your risk for heart diseases. Third, make the lifestyle changes necessary to reduce your risk of heart disease. This includes controlling your blood pressure through a healthy diet, exercise and medication, if necessary. It also requires managing your cholesterol.
Lastly, don’t smoke. About 1 of 5 African Americans smokes cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cigarette smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease and 1 of every 3 deaths caused by cardiovascular disease. If you do smoke, talk to your doctor to get the help needed to quit. It’s never too late to quit. For February 2016, let’s recommit to becoming healthier and well.
Editor’s note: Moleto A. Smith Jr. is the executive director St. Thomas East End Medical Center Corporation.

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