Heart Health in women of color

Dr. Candice Fraser, MD FACOG
February 1, 2022
(5 mins read)
Women's health

Happy black history month. As a woman of color, this month is by far my favorite month. As we dive into the history of all those who came before us and those who continue to make strides within the African American community and the world. As a physician, It is also essential for me to highlight February for American Heart Month. This is a time to focus on cardiovascular health. As we discuss all things black, it is also essential to discuss black health related to black women. 

First things first, why is heart month in February?

This is a great question, so here is a quick history lesson. In acknowledgment of the importance of the ongoing fight against cardiovascular disease, the Congress, by Joint Resolution approved December 30, 1963, as amended (36 U.S.C. 101), requested that President Lyndon B. Johnson issued an annual proclamation designating February as “American Heart Month”.

Why is Heart Month important?

Heart month is an important time to raise awareness about the severe dangers of heart disease and help people reduce their risk of heart attack, stroke, and other related complications. 


What is heart disease?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease. About 659,000 people in the United States die from heart disease each year—that's 1 in every four deaths.


What Are 4 Common Types of Heart Disease?


Common types of heart disease include: 


First, we have Coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as coronary heart disease.

This is the most common type of heart disease in the United States. It affects the blood flow to the heart and can lead to a heart attack. 


Next is Arrhythmia. This disease is characterized by a change in the heart’s sequence of electrical impulses. It can result in heartbeats that are either too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or irregular (palpitations).


Also, we have heart valve disease. This occurs when a valve in the heart is damaged or diseased.


Lastly, we have Heart failure. This is a condition in which the heart does not work as well as it should. This results in fluid buildup. 


Now let's dive into heart disease in women of color. 


First of all, all women are at risk of heart disease. According to the CDC, heart disease and stroke are the No. 1 killer in women, and stroke disproportionately affects African Americans. Notably, African American women are less likely than women of other ethnicities to know that heart disease is the leading cause of death.


Diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity, and a family history of heart disease are all prevalent among African Americans and major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. 


African American women have almost two times the risk of stroke than Caucasians and are more likely to die at an earlier age when compared to women of other ethnicities.


Here are some vital stats:


  • Nearly 50,000 African American women die due to Cardiovascular disease annually.
  • Forty-nine percent of African American women ages 20 and older have heart diseases.
  • However, only 1 in 5 African American women believe they are personally at risk of heart disease.
  • Only 36% of African American women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk.
  • Only 58% of African American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.

How can I reduce my risk of heart disease?

To lower your chances of getting heart disease, it’s essential to do the following:

  • Know your blood pressure. It is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Having uncontrolled diabetes raises your risk of heart disease, so it is important to talk to your doctor or health care team about whether you should be tested for diabetes.
  • Consider quitting smoking. If you don’t smoke, my advice is not to start. If you smoke, talk to your physician to learn ways to stop smoking
  • Check your blood cholesterol and triglycerides with your doctor regularly.
  • Make healthy food choices. Being overweight or having obesity raises your risk of heart disease.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink to one drink a day
  • Manage stress levels by finding healthy ways to cope with stress.

On the first Friday each February, in celebration of American Heart Month, the nation comes together to go red for heart health, so mark your calendars!! It's time to pull out your best red outfits! Again Happy black history month and happy heart health month!


Here are some critical CDC’s Public Health Efforts Related to Heart Disease to check out. 

For more information on women and heart disease, visit the following websites: