Bruce Johnson
African American Women

African American Women are Least Likely to Know Their Heart Attack Risk Factors

While cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of all American women, it is African American women, who, by all accounts are at greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than any other ethnic group. Studies show African American women are also the least likely to know of their own heart attack risk factors.

In Chapter 11 of Heart to Heart, Barbara Robinson thought she had made the significant lifestyle changes in time to protect her health. She stopped smoking, became a jogger and changed her diet. She and those around her would not think of her as having any heart attack risk factors.

Heart to Heart subject Barbara Robinson of Washington, DC

Then one day at work as an executive assistant in suburban Washington, DC, at age 51, Robinson recalls in the book, "I was at work when the pain started. It felt like indigestion at first, and I kept hitting my chest trying to knock away the pain."

Know Your Family History of Heart Disease

Family histories of heart disease, diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, and overweight/obesity are all greatly prevalent among African Americans and are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including stroke.

Yet only half of African American women surveyed knew their falling into one or more of these categories put them at high risk for heart attacks, strokes or some other form of cardiovascular disease.

The American Heart Association warns:
  • Cardiovascular diseases kill nearly 50,000 African American women each year.
  • Only 52% of African American women know the warning signs of heart attack and strokes.
  • More than 40% of non-Hispanic black women have high blood pressure.
  • African American women are less likely to know heart disease is the leading cause of death; more so than caucasian women. 
  • Amazingly, doctors were even less informed. Among primary care physicians, only eight percent knew that more women than men die each year from cardiovascular disease.
  • Lack of overall awareness often results in less aggressive and sophisticated diagnosis and treatment by women's health care providers, with worse outcomes.
Hispanic Women and Heart Disease
The American Heart Association says only one in three Hispanic women realize heart disease is the #1 killer in their gender and ethnic group.

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