Coronary artery disease is the most common type of heart disease. Atherosclerosis causes the arteries to narrow and harden, cutting off blood supply to the heart. Not only is coronary artery disease more prevalent in African-Americans, it also starts at an earlier age. Studies have shown that African-Americans also have the highest mortality rates from CAD than any other population.
There are many contributing factors to the prevalence of coronary artery disease in African-Americans. One of the leading causes for CAD is obesity. Sixty-three percent of African-American men are either overweight or suffer from obesity, while 77% of African-American women are overweight or obese. Obesity is one of the top contributing factors for African-Americans having coronary artery disease.
Another disease that is found in African-Americans who have coronary artery disease is hypertension. In the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Studies found that high blood pressure in African-American women was substantially higher than in other groups tests. Likewise, a study by Karim R. Saab, et. al., indicated that “African-Americans have a higher prevalence of hypertension that is less well controlled than do whites, leading to higher rates of stroke and congestive heart failure.” This same study also noted that “the increase in obesity in African-Americans is associated with increased frequency of insulin resistance, as well as 50% higher frequency of diabetes.”
Coronary artery disease is not only detrimental to the patient who suffers with this disease, but it also affects the unborn children of women with CAD. It has been found that African-Americans’ with CARD experience lower birth weights in their babies, higher frequency of preterm births and also experience lower vitamin D levels.
There are also socioeconomic factors that contribute to African-Americans being a great risk for coronary artery disease. Lower levels of education and higher rates of poverty are among some of the top reasons African-Americans are suffering with coronary artery disease. Many members of this population cannot afford proper health care coverage and therefore, do not seek screening tests and are not diagnosed early in the onset of this disease. Additionally, many African-Americans do not have access to proper health care for financial reasons as well as due to lack of knowledge about such diseases.
There are many ways the African-American population can help prevent the risk of coronary artery disease. Daily exercise along with a healthy diet will help combat the problem of obesity in this population. Eating a diet low in sugar and carbohydrates and high in protein and vegetables will likely help keep cholesterol levels down, which will help prevent coronary artery disease. Smoking cessation is another way to help keep coronary artery disease at bay. Something as simple as taking one aspirin a day can help prevent strokes in patients who are likely to develop coronary artery disease.
While coronary artery disease is widespread in the African-American community, there are ways to not only live with this disease, but to delay or forego the onset of it. A healthy lifestyle including regular exercise and low fat diet are some of the best and easiest ways to combat CAD. Better education of the African-American community in regards to coronary artery disease would help give this population the tools they need to take better care of themselves and make choices to help prevent coronary artery disease.