Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major killer among Americans today. It causes more deaths in Americans across ethnic and gender lines than any other disease and is the leading cause of disability in the United States. Although it crosses ethnic and gender lines, CVD and its risk factors affect a disproportionate amount of minority groups, compared to the non-Hispanic white population.
Modifying Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
These risk factors are all lifestyle choices that can be changed or modified to lower the risk of heart disease, and are huge factors into the reason for such great health disparities among minority groups.
· High blood cholesterol
· High blood pressure (hypertension)
· Physical inactivity
· Obesity and overweight
· Diabetes mellitus
· Individual response to stress
· Over-consumption of alcohol
According to the CDC and the American Heart Association, the following health disparities and risk factors are prevalent among ethnic minorities:
Obesity and overweight:
· About 78 percent of African-American women are overweight.
· Hispanics had 21 percent higher obesity prevalence, compared with whites, in 2008.
· During the span of 2006 -2008, non-Hispanic blacks were reported to have a 51% greater prevalence of obesity, compared to non-Hispanic whites.
High Blood Pressure:
· High blood pressure is more prevalent in certain racial/ethnic minority groups, especially blacks.
· African Americans have the highest rate of high blood pressure of all groups and tend to develop it younger than others.
· Non-Hispanic blacks, Mexican-Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives have a higher prevalence of diabetes than non-Hispanic whites for adults over age 20.
· Compared to whites, Hispanics are more than twice as likely to have diabetes.
· Black women are 69 percent more likely than white women to suffer heart disease and heart attacks.
These numbers are serious road blocks in the fight against health disparities and cardiovascular disease, as many have a direct correlation to cultural differences, socioeconomic status (SES), lack of access to health care, and lack of nutritional education.
Individuals and families who live in low SES neighborhoods often have no access to health care, or at the most, poor quality health care. This translates to a lack of information about possible risk factors and available treatments that could reverse their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In a recent survey cited by the American Heart Association, Hispanics and blacks were reported to be less likely than whites to have access to a “regular source of medical care.” The survey also stated that “disparities in access and quality can be reduced or eliminated by having health insurance and a medical home.”
The lack of health and nutrition education in these areas also means that people remain unaware of habits and cultural diets that increase their risk of heart disease. Dr. Kristi Thomas writes about cultural differences in the diets of many African American families like her own, in order to advocate and change health disparities that can exist within the African American community due to diet.
She discusses some of the foods commonly eaten by her African-American family such as fried salt fish, scrapple, fried potatoes and onions, and pig’s feet. These dishes contributed to her mother’s poor health and eventual stomach cancer.
Dr. Thomas says. “It was atrocious, but it was the diet I grew up with.”
Many of these health problems can be faced and reversed with the proper education – with programs designed to change the way we think about food and nutrition and the habits we pass on to our children – and with more access to much needed health care. For more information on health disparities, visit our website by clicking here: Health Equity Coalition.