The American Heart Association recently announced that African Americans are disproportionately affected by cardiovascular health problems. This is according to a scientific statement by the organization, Reuters reports. The statement said that more African Americans die from heart disease than other groups.
“While African Americans are more likely to experience many cardiovascular diseases, in particular strokes and heart failure, they are also more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases,” Dr. Mercedes R. Carnethon of Northwestern University Preventive Medicine in Chicago said in a statement to Reuters.
Carnethon and colleagues have also found that African Americans develop diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and atherosclerosis at an earlier age as well.
About four in five urgent care clinics around the country see over 450 patients per week, and many of these visits are for preventable health conditions. But for certain demographics, it’s not that simple. According to Reuters, researchers wrote that this elevated risk comes from the prevalence of unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices. Carnethon told Reuters that African Americans have disproportionate access to health services and opportunities, putting them more at risk for health issues.
“Cardiovascular diseases are preventable with healthy lifestyles,” she said in a statement. “Unfortunately, many African-Americans do not have equal access to the resources needed to lead healthy lifestyles, specifically access to healthy foods, safe spaces for physical activity, and peaceful homes and communities that promote restorative sleep.”
Carnethon went on to say that the United States has not improved healthcare access enough for underserved communities to prioritize preventative care. And this is not the only set of findings that reflects on this issue. The Los Angeles Times reports that a concerning number of African American in Texas women are dying from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, a 2016 report by the state’s Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force and Department of State Health Services found that black women made up 11.4% of Texas births and 28.8% of pregnancy-related deaths between 2011 and 2012.
There are 35.7 million people without health insurance in the U.S. (CDC, 2014), but Texas has more uninsured people than any other U.S. state. The Los Angeles Times reports that the state has also made cuts to women’s health programs, which include screenings for diseases like cervical cancer and diabetes.
Creating a solution will likely require an overhaul of policy and health infrastructure. As for combatting the cardiovascular health crisis, Dr. LaPrincess Brewer said in a statement to Reuters that it is the role of healthcare professionals and policymakers to create “culturally relevant, community-based cardiovascular health interventions that focus more on positive motivation towards promoting cardiovascular health rather than the negative impact of cardiovascular disease.”
“However, it will take a concerted effort to address not only the high burden of traditional risk factors among African Americans, but also the plethora of social and environmental contextual barriers faced by this population,” she said.