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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth Medina

African-Americans and Cardiovascular Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States, accounting for 23.5% of all deaths. High blood pressure (HBP), and obesity are common conditions that increase the risk of heart disease. However, specific minorities are more likely to deal with cardiovascular disease (CVD) than White Americans. In the U.S., African-Americans have the highest rate of getting CVD and are disproportionately likely to get heart disease due to rising exposure to obesity and high blood pressure.

Higher body mass index (BMI) is related to heart disease, but why do Black Americans experience higher levels of obesity than other races? According to the American Psychological Association, racial discrimination can cause stress levels to rise among black people. Stress corticotropin-releasing factors contribute to obesity. Thus, increasing the possibility of heart disease.

HBP shows a correlation between heart disease. New research has shown that African-Americans are more salt sensitive, which can affect their blood pressure. The American Heart Association cites, “as little as one extra gram (half a teaspoon) of salt could raise blood pressure as much as 5 mm Hg.” There is a lack of antihypertensive management in the medical field for black people. According to the American College of Cardiology, high rates of nonadherence with antihypertensive medication are prominent within the black community, making regulating heart disease troublesome. As blood pressure goes up, the risk of heart disease also increases.

What are ways to decrease the number of cases of heart disease in the African-American community? When it comes to obesity, racism should be acknowledged, as it affects stress hormones among African-Americans. Improved patient/physician communication can also help more African-Americans to take medication to control their HBP. Heart disease is severe for African-Americans, but there are ways to prevent it, such as following a salt free diet and providing them with safe environments that exclude racism.


““Cover Story | One Size Does Not Fit All: The Role of Sex, Gender, Race and Ethnicity in Cardiovascular Medicine.” American College of Cardiology, 14 Oct. 2018,

“Ethnicity and Health in America Series: Obesity in the African-American Community.” American Psychological Association, 2015,

““High Blood Pressure and African Americans.” Www.Heart.Org, 31 Oct. 2016,“

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