When it comes to our health, Americans have one thing in common: heart disease and stroke remain our No. 1 and No. 5 health threats. But statistics show that these diseases may affect minorities in even higher numbers. April is National Minority Health Month, and the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association wants you to know your risks and how you can prevent these diseases.
For all Americans, we can’t change who we are at our core. Risk factors such as age, family history, race and gender are given to us and can’t be changed. But there are some risk factors that we can control, such as high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes. These health factors can increase our risk for heart disease and stroke, but the good news is we can make lifestyle changes to keep them under control.
So how are these risk factors different for minorities? Those of Hispanic decent, the largest and fastest growing minority group in the U.S. accounting for over 50 million of our nation’s population, are unfortunately more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than their non-Hispanic neighbors. Over 40 percent of Hispanics suffer from cardiovascular disease due to lack of awareness, as well as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. Likewise, African-Americans have the highest prevalence of high blood pressure in the world and develop this disease earlier in life. According to the American Heart Association, an estimate 40 million Black and Hispanic Americans are living with high blood pressure.
And let’s not forget about women’s risk for heart disease and stroke! Although cardiovascular disease continues to remain the No.1 killer of women, minority women are even more affected by heart disease and stroke. Nearly 49 percent of African-American women have cardiovascular disease, while Hispanic women, on average, are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanics.
How can we change this and make a difference? The answer begins with YOU! Just simple changes to your lifestyle can add up to a big difference for your health. Here are a few small changes you can make:
- Commit to being more active. April is also “Move More Month”! Lace up your sneakers and participate in “National Move More Day” on April 4 to kickoff this month-long campaign.
- Know your blood pressure and heart score. Visit heart.org/hbp and to log your numbers to learn how to reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease. Take My Life Check to find out your heart score.
- Talk to your doctor. Bring your heart score and a list of questions to your next appointment. This will help you learn how to better understand and manage your numbers.
- Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. Nearly 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese, which puts you at higher risk. For overall cardiovascular health, aim for the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity.
- Reduce your sodium consumption. Limit your daily sodium intake to 1500mg a day, recommended by the American Heart Association. Refrain from keeping a salt shaker at the dinner table to avoid unnecessary sodium intake.
For more information about starting a heart-healthy lifestyle, visit www.heart.org.