Why Are African-Americans at Greater Risk for Heart Disease?
African-Americans are at higher risk for heart disease, yet they're less likely to get the care they need.
Treating Heart Disease Risk Factors
Drummond's father, who had health insurance but not a physician
he would go to on a regular basis, provides a cautionary tale about why
African-Americans must maintain a consistent relationship with a good doctor
who knows their medical history and provides preventive care, screenings, and
referrals to specialists.
"He had a leaking valve, and it didn't get replaced as soon as
it should have," Drummond says. "The doctor told us it should have been
replaced six or seven years earlier. When he started having swelling in his
legs and shortness of breath, that's when he went to the hospital." Doctors
diagnosed the leaking valve and performed surgery, but "it was too late for
him," Drummond says. He died a few weeks after his surgery.
Besides a strong family history, Drummond has other risk
factors for heart disease. She was diagnosed with high blood pressure at age 28
type 2 diabetes about five years ago. After years of unsuccessfully trying
to control her blood pressure with diet and
exercise, she now takes medications.
She's under a doctor's regular care, and she stays fit and eats
healthy foods. "I work hard. I go to the gym to help control my hypertension
diabetes. I take the meds, I watch my sodium intake, and I work at keeping
weight within normal range." So far, she says, she's avoided heart
What to Ask Your Doctor About Heart Disease
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart failure.
Work with your doctor to keep it in check by asking the following
- What is my risk for developing high blood pressure?
- How can I limit my risk and help prevent it?
- What are the symptoms?
- What does my blood pressure reading actually mean?
- Am I taking any medicines that make me more susceptible?
- What medications are available if I have high blood pressure?
- What are the benefits and side effects?