African-Americans: Risk Factors for Heart Disease - Part 1
As we discussed in last weeks post, “Why African-Americans Are At Greater Risk of Cardiovascular Disease,” heart disease is the leading cause of death for all racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.—but this is even more evident in the African-American community.
There are certain factors that will increase your chances of having heart disease and stroke, or in other work your risk factors. Obviously, the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of suffering from the disease.
So, if you are to avoid heart disease and stroke you need to be informed about these risks, so that you can potentially do something about them.
There are two categories of risk factors:
- Those you can’t change.
- Those you can change.
So, first up let’s take a look at those risk factors you can’t change:
As you get older your risk of getting heart disease increases. Pre-menopausal women are somewhat protected, but after menopause their risk will begin to rise. The risk of having a stroke also increases with age.
If your parents had heart disease and stroke you are more likely to develop it yourself. So, if you already suffer from high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes, along with a family history of heart disease and stroke, you should discuss the risk with your doctor.
Men have a greater risk of heart attack than women. And, even after menopause, a man’s risk is still higher than a women’s. Stroke is also more common in men than women.
So, now let’s get to the good news—the risk factors you can change:
Smoking is such a widespread and significant risk factor that the Surgeon General has called it, "The leading preventable cause of disease and deaths in the United States."
Smoking increases your risk to developing coronary heart disease by 2–4 times that of a nonsmoker.
Remember, it's never too early to stop, and it's never too late to stop!
Check out my previous article, “Why Quitting Smoking is Good For Your Heart," for more information.
High Blood Pressure
You may have heard high blood pressure described as the “silent killer.” This is because you can have it and not even know.
Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80mmHG. You have high blood pressure if your top number is 140mmHG or higher, your lower number is 90mmHG or higher, or both.
The higher your blood pressure is the greater your risk of damaged artery walls, clogged arteries, heart attack, stroke and kidney problems. So, this is why regular health check-ups at your doctors surgery are so very important.
High blood pressure can be controlled by:
- Taking medicine, if needed.
- Losing weight, if needed.
- Getting regular physical activity - at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity most days of the week.
- Moderating alcohol intake, or not drinking at all.
- Watching your salt intake--a high salt diet may raise blood pressure. Aim for less than 1 teaspoon of sodium per day, and watch out for hidden salt in processed foods.
Next week we’ll continue this series by looking at other modifiable risk factors, including cholesterol levels and weight. Don't forget to drop me an email with any queries you may have!