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Ola Akinboboye, M.D.
President, Association of Black Cardiologists
Heart disease is a major concern for all Americans, but no group is more significantly affected by it than the African American community.
African Americans are less likely to have their cardiovascular disease treated according to evidence-based guidelines, and when it comes to surgery, African Americans are three times more likely to be operated on by a high-risk surgeon.
Unsurprisingly, this divide in care is leads to a divide in health outcomes. The statistics are eye-opening: African American men and women are 76 and 54 percent more likely than their white counterparts to die of stroke. African Americans have a higher prevalence of hypertension and diabetes as well.
As medical professionals and people of color, we cannot stand for such levels of disparity to continue. That is the impetus behind our 2020 Goal: a commitment to reduce the cardiovascular disease disparity gap between African Americans and whites by 20 percent by the year 2020.
How do we achieve our goal?
There are several key aspects that must be addressed to make this a reality.
First, we must increase diversity in medical professions and bring higher-quality, more consistent care to historically-underserved minority communities. Quite simply, more, better care will only improve patients’ health. By providing at-risk patients the care necessary to treat their condition and the information and skills necessary to manage their health on their own, we can make a big impact in reducing the disproportionate effect cardiovascular disease has on African Americans.
We must also continue to invest in the research and development of new drugs and treatments to address some of the racial, ethnic and gender differences that exist and can hinder therapeutic responses for different patients. Developing these new treatments will help millions of Americans of different ethnic backgrounds receive the appropriate care that is best-suited for them.
There may not be a single magic bullet that reduces cardiovascular disease in the African American community, but through a multi-pronged approach we can improve patient results and reduce the disparity in health care outcomes between African Americans and the rest of the country.
Lisa M. Tate, CAE
CEO, WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease
More than 400,000 women die from heart disease in the U.S. each year—four times more than the number of deaths from breast cancer, and more than all cancers combined.¹ Far too often, women fighting heart disease are either inaccurately diagnosed, or do not receive the care they need.²³ At WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease we help all women understand their risk factors for heart disease, how they can prevent it, and what they should do if they think they might be having a heart attack. Such knowledge can, literally, save your life.
There is some good news about heart disease. It is preventable. Women should keep in mind the “ABCs” of prevention every day: Aspirin therapy for women who are at risk, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management, and smoking cessation. In addition, all women should exercise 30 minutes a day, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat and trans-fat, and maintain a healthy body weight. These lifestyle and dietary habits have an important role in staying heart healthy.
Friends and family play an essential role in the recovery and well-being of a heart disease patient. A heart disease diagnosis can leave a woman feeling overwhelmed, depressed or anxious; depression is twice as common in women as in men.⁴ You can support a friend who has heart disease by being an active listener and by encouraging her to connect with other women heart disease survivors with whom she can share her experience, and see that many women thrive, despite their diagnosis.
WomenHeart has 136 local Support Networks for women with heart disease in 39 states and in Canada. They are led by WomenHeart Champions – women heart disease survivors trained by WomenHeart as Support Network Coordinators. WomenHeart Support Networks are community-based patient support groups that meet monthly. WomenHeart Support Networks provide education on heart disease and information on how you can live well with heart disease, and, most importantly, they connect you with other women who “have been there.” We also have an online patient support community and provide support via our Sister Match program.
¹ Go A S, Mozaffarian, D, Roger, V L, Benjamin E J, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics 2014 Update: A Report from the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Circulation. 2014.
² Dey S, Flather, MD, Breiger D, et al. Sex-related differences in the presentation, treatment and outcomes among patients with acute coronary syndromes: the Global Registry of Acute Coronary Events. Heart. 2009; 95(1):20-6.
³ Curtis LH, Al-Khatib SM, Shea AM, et al. Sex Differences in the Use of Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators for Primary and Secondary Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death. JAMA. 2007; 298(13):1517-1524.
⁴Mayo Clinic staff, et al. Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors. 2009. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). Rochester, MN; 1998-2009. http://www.MayoClinic.com/health/heart-disease/HB00040.