Almost 400,000 women die of heart disease in the United States each year, and a large percentage of them are black females. In fact, diseases of the heart and circulation, which include heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, hypertension, and diabetes, are responsible for killing more black women than anything else in our society. That includes cancer, although women tend to be more afraid of developing cancer than of getting heart trouble.
African American women are especially affected by heart disease in a negative manner. They have a higher mortality or death rate than white women and black men under the age of 55 years. The mortality rate from coronary heart disease is 69% higher than for white women. In addition, the first heart attack occurs at an earlier age in black women and is more likely to be fatal than is the case in white women. And premenopausal women who have hypertension, which is more common in black women, have 10 times the heart attack risk of those without high blood pressure.
The purpose of this article is to put African American women on notice that they are at great risk of dying or being disabled by what we call cardiovascular disease, or CVD, and that they need to take some precautionary steps to avoid being affected by these problems. Over the past several years, we have developed a knowledge base of information which allows us not only to look back and see what has happened to so many black women who have been affected by these disorders, but also to look ahead and to project what will happen to our women if certain corrective and preventive actions are not taken. An organization which I founded 30 years ago, called the Association of Black Cardiologists, has collected a great deal of that information and is currently conducting research on the subject through its Women’s Center in Atlanta, Georgia. More information about this organization and others that you may want to contact for more resource data is provided at the end of the article.