The Burden of Heart Disease is Higher in African Americans
The average lifespan for African Americans is significantly shorter than for whites, mostly due to heart disease and stroke, according to an American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Statement based on a review of nearly 300 scientific studies and published today in Circulation. Between 1999 and 2010, cardiovascular disease contributed to a total of more than two million years of life lost among African Americans.
Heart disease – the leading cause of death worldwide – and heart disease risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, develop earlier in African Americans, resulting in an average lifespan that is 3.4 years shorter than for white Americans (75.5 years vs. 78.9 years, respectively). According to the AHA, a higher risk for heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and sudden cardiac arrest reduces life expectancy.
Although socioeconomic status is a contributing factor in some cases, health outcomes remain poorer in African Americans, even when socioeconomic status is comparable. With regard to obesity, cultural norms may present an additional challenge. Research shows a cultural preference for larger body size, particularly for women, among African Americans.