Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, about 655,000 Americans die from heart disease each year – that is 1 in every 4 deaths.
With February being American Heart Month, when it comes to taking care of your heart by eating healthy and making the right lifestyle choices, this is especially important within the Black community. According to the American Heart Association, among non-Hispanic Blacks age 20 and older, 46 percent of men and 48 percent of women have cardiovascular disease. In 2018 among all ages, coronary heart disease caused the deaths of 22,699 Black males and 18,118 Black females.
“Heart disease is a major cause for concern within the Black community,” said Dr. Branden P. Turner, a family medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Medical Offices. “As such, African-American men and women need to better understand the causes of cardiovascular disease so that they can live longer and lead healthy lives.”
According to Turner, high blood pressure – dubbed as “the silent killer” – is a main driver of heart disease. It is disproportionately high among Black men and women, many of whom are unaware of their condition as they typically exhibit no early symptoms.
“Get your blood pressure checked regularly, maintain a healthy weight, eat heart-healthy, low-sodium, low-fat and non-fried food, as well as exercise regularly and limit alcohol consumption,” Turner advised. “This will help you prevent heart disease and other cardiovascular-related health problems.” Ideally, normal blood pressure should be below 120/80 mm Hg., he noted.
Turner encouraged everyone to talk to their health care providers about what constitutes a healthy diet, what type of exercise you should be doing, and making the right lifestyle changes to keep one’s heart strong and healthy. He stressed there’s no one size that fits all when it comes to maintaining good health, and urged the Black community to be more proactive when it comes to monitoring their health.
“One thing is for certain,” he noted. “Heart disease should definitely be taken seriously. It’s also important to know that heart disease is preventable. The action you take today will have a big impact as to what happens to you in the future.”
To help educate the public about the do’s and don’ts of leading healthy lives, Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center in 2013 launched a Faith-Based Partnerships for Healthier Communities program that sought to improve the health of our communities by educating and empowering faith-based community support networks.
As part of this program, two representatives from each faith-based organization attended a four-day training session in which they were provided with the necessary educational materials and giveaways to host workshops within their own organizations. Training topics included cardiovascular disease, stress management, healthy eating, exercise programs and effective communication with healthcare providers – all in relation to managing chronic conditions.
Today, Kaiser Permanente offers the following lifestyle tips to help you maintain good health and a strong heart:
• Maintain a healthy weight to lighten the load
on your heart.
• Limit alcohol to no more than one drink each
day for women, and no more than two drinks
each day for men.
• If you smoke, make a plan to quit.
• If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar
• Try to get moderate aerobic exercise — such
as walking — at least 30 minutes on most
• Eat right for your heart. Heart-healthy foods
like fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins (such
as fish, beans, chicken, nuts and low-fat
dairy), and whole grains will help keep your
heart and blood vessels in good shape. Use
Kaiser’s Nourish program to create your own
personalized eating plan — and visit farmers
markets for fresh inspiration.
For additional information about heart health, visit KP.org.