Even with the continuing concerns over COVID-19, heart disease remains the most common cause of death in the United States. Unfortunately, African American and Hispanic people remain at greater risk for heart disease, according to Kenton Forte, M.D., a cardiologist at Heart Beat Center of Western New York, in Buffalo, New York. Forte talked about the importance of heart disease risk awareness for African American and Hispanic people on a recent edition of the healthcare podcast True to Your Heart, available at https://bit.ly/TTYHPodcast.
Despite the availability of some helpful medications for African Americans, Forte notes that, “disease management is less effective among African Americans, leading to higher mortality.”
Growing health concerns
As the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the country, Hispanics make up 18.5 percent of the total U.S. population. Unfortunately, heart disease is also the leading cause of death among Hispanics in the United States.
Recent studies have shown that people with lower socioeconomic status are much more likely to develop heart disease than those who are wealthier or better educated.
Hispanic communities in the United States had a poverty rate of 15.7 percent in 2019 and the highest rate of uninsurance, at nearly 17 percent.
These are important factors that negatively impact Hispanic health and access to adequate healthcare services.
The good news is leading organizations, including the American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are prioritizing Hispanics in the nation’s heart health improvement goals.
Managing heart disease risk
“No medication used to treat heart disease is gender or race-specific,” Forte stresses, “but the future of heart disease treatments may be medication regimens that are tailored toward specific patient populations.”
“The key to heart disease prevention is to focus on managing your risk factors and knowing your numbers,” Forte added. “This means having regular check-ups with your physician so that you know your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglyceride level, blood sugar, and body mass index or BMI. By doing this, you can be aware of your risk factors and make an early intervention.”
Talking to your physician about therapies for heart disease risk management is also key as misinformation is everywhere. According to a recent Harris Poll, commissioned by Amarin, Hispanic people and African Americans are more likely to take unproven dietary “supplements” including green tea, garlic, and fish oil/omega-3 dietary supplements to try to improve heart health.
Diabetics at greater risk
“Every day I talk directly to people about their real situation. While my focus is on diabetes, there is a correlation between diabetes and heart disease in many of the African American and Hispanic patients we encounter,” said Anna Norton, CEO of DiabetesSisters.
There can also be a difference for women and men, Norton explained. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease for women with metabolic syndrome, which is indicated by large waist size, elevated blood pressure, glucose intolerance, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides. All of these increase the chance of developing heart disease.
Small changes make a difference
Dr. Forte suggests the following lifestyle changes to help manage risks of heart disease:
- Keep your numbers (cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and body mass index) in the healthy range by incorporating more physical activity every day.
- Cut back on salt intake to improve blood pressure.
- Focus on eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, such as chicken or fish.
- If heart disease runs in your family, see a primary care physician or preventive cardiologist in your 20s to discuss a healthy weight for you, to make sure your blood pressure levels are normal, and to plan for healthy eating and exercising.
Hear more from Dr. Forte and Ms. Norton, and other experts on heart disease on the True to Your Heart podcast, at https://bit.ly/TTYHPodcast.