February might be the shortest month of the year, but it gives us a lot to celebrate. You may have plans for Black History Month or plan a date with your significant other on Valentine’s Day, which is a good way to remeber that February also brings us American Heart Month. So, schedule a heart check this coming February!
Heart disease is the number one leading cause of death for adults in the United States. On top of that fact, African Americans have a greater risk of developing heart disease. To help reduce your chances of heart disease and other serious health conditions, here are the risk factors to know.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure affects more than 40% of African Americans, and there are several reasons for this. For some, it’s genetic – something that they have to deal with their entire life. For others though, high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is caused by environmental factors that can be controlled. For example, if you smoke, eat a diet high in sodium or saturated fats, lead a stressful lifestyle, have diabetes, or are overweight, your chances of high blood pressure are much higher. Unfortunately, so is your risk of heart disease.
Because of the health risks caused by high blood pressure, it’s important to make maintenance a priority. Quitting smoking or starting a regular workout routine can be a great way to begin lowering your blood pressure. On top of that, experts from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. The DASH diet encourages lean meats, whole grains, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. Keeping an eye on sodium levels can make this diet even more effective in lowering your blood pressure.
According to the CDC, more than one-third of the American population is considered obese. African American adults are 1.5 times more likely to be obese than white Americans. This fact alone is a significant reason for the higher rate of heart disease in black communities.
To combat America’s obesity epidemic, it’s important to make a commitment to an exercise program and a healthy diet, and American Heart Month is a great time to start! An exercise program can be as simple as taking daily walks; to make it a social activity, consider walking or running with a friend or neighbor. You can also