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Cardiovascular Health

Put Black American Heart Health on Bypass

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Chelsey Sellars

The Center for Black Health & Equity

If you’ve watched any medical dramas, you’ve likely heard someone in scrubs say, “the patient needs to be put on bypass.” In layman’s terms, bypass surgery is a procedure used to redirect flowing blood away from a clot or blockage and ensure the system’s health.

Let’s think about that: “redirect away from a clot or blockage.” I’m no surgeon, but I can tell you that we need some sort of bypass to alleviate Black Americans who are disproportionately affected by poor cardiovascular health.

African Americans have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and experiencing strokes. They are also more likely to die from both according to a survey completed in 2018 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity, hypertension, and high cholesterol are all contributing factors to heart disease. 

Structural racism and poor diet often intertwine to become key factors in this health disparity. In fact, the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity completed a study that proves fast food restaurants spend more time and money advertising to Black and Hispanic audiences. Most of these advertisements did not include nutritious or calorie-conscious menu items.

Bypassing a larger problem

Holly Branch, food and nutrition program manager for the Center for Black Health & Equity reminds us that there are steps you can take to prevent or reduce the impact of heart disease on your own. 

“You can control your health by what you put on your plate and at the end of your fork,” she says. Branch adds that engaging in physical activity is an important factor, too.

However, Branch and other health advocates understand that personal autonomy is only part of the effort needed to bypass the larger problem.

The Center has been helping coalitions push for healthy retail in their communities, allowing grocery store customers to reach the cash register without being bombarded with high sodium items. We have also supported policies to require healthy menu disclosures in cities like Cleveland; this way, people can clearly see what foods have a high sodium warning before they order in restaurants.

Heart health education and policy change can, over time, help to break down the disparities that Black people are currently experiencing. and are great websites to learn more about diet and cardiovascular health.

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