By Frederick H. Lowe
Heart health awareness is particularly important for black men because we are at a higher risk of dying or becoming physically disabled from coronary heart disease compared to white men.
This is because black men suffer from high rates of diabetes, high-blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of exercise and tobacco smoking, according to the American Medical Association.
In 2013, coronary heart disease killed 20,758 black men and 18,441 black women, according to the American Heart Association. The American Cancer Society ranks heart disease as the leading cause of death among African Americans.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is a disease characterized in part by a waxy substance called plaque which builds up inside the coronary arteries. These arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle.
When plaque builds up in the arteries, it creates a condition called atherosclerosis, a hardening and narrowing of the arteries. Silently and slowly the arteries become blocked, compromising blood flow.
This is the usual cause of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease. Together, these conditions are called cardiovascular disease. Coronary artery disease can range from no symptoms, to chest pain, to a heart attack.
But all is not lost for black men. They can take charge of their health.
Black men must know their risk for heart disease.
Men should know if heart disease runs in the family. In black families such a conversation may be difficult because many black families are reluctant to discuss health issues and the family’s health history.
Black men also can make lifestyle changes by losing weight, removing the salt shaker from the table and not eating those foods, like bread which is loaded with salt. Exercises, such as walking, taking prescribed medications as directed and if necessary, undergoing cardiac surgery to remove blockages are all options for achieving better heart health.
Black men also should talk to their primary care doctors about heart disease to learn what further steps they might take to prevent heart disease or to protect their health and longevity if they have already been diagnosed with heart disease.