Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Risk Factors For Heart Disease: Worse for Women & African Americans

A recent study reported in Health Day.com demonstrates the disparity felt by women and African Americans when it comes to risk factors for heart disease. In particular, diabetes and high blood pressure were found to be major contributors to this sex and race gap by increasing the chance for heart disease to develop significantly in these groups when compared to men in general.

When looking at combined risk from 5 factors (High cholesterol, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes) blacks had an increased risk of 67% to develop heart disease as compared to 48% in whites. Women had a combined risk of 58% compared to 48% in men. These risks ultimately make these groups more likely to experience poor health outcomes, or even die from complications of heart disease and stroke.

 But why is this happening? From a clinical perspective, the article suggested that " this difference in risk could be due to the fact that heart disease has typically been considered a disease of white men, and doctors have not tackled contributing factors as much when they crop up in women and blacks." If this is the case, this image of the "typical" heart disease patient can be putting lives at risk. It is later suggested that doctors take risk factors more seriously in these populations since their chance for later development is higher.

Patients can also have an important role in bridging this gap. It is important to know your family history, be aware of the things you are at high risk for and  try your best to manage any risk factors you do have. If you don't feel like your doctor is taking your risk factors seriously, seek a second opinion. Remember, your family history does not have to be your biography. Ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk factors for heart disease. In some cases, small life changes can make a big difference.

Resources:

Original Article: Women, African Americans Hit Harder by Heart Disease Risk Factors, Heath Day.com

Article Referenced: Philly.com 

Article: How to Prevent and Control Coronary Heart Disease Risk Factors , NIH

Video: Heart Healthy Tips, 5 Superfoods 


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