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Matters of the Heart: Black Women May Be More Affected by Heart Disease Than White Women

black women heartBy Tamiya King

A study reveals that Black women could have a higher risk of heart disease, even if they don’t have metabolic syndrome. This poses a huge problem, since current medical theories assert that metabolic syndrome, characterized by bad cholesterol, excess fat in the abdominal area, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and the inability to metabolize glucose properly are the risk factors that lead to strokes and heart attacks.

While heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, the instances vary among women of different ethnicities. The Journal of the American Heart Association reports that having only two abnormalities with metabolism increased the risk of heart disease in African-American women. Black women who are obese or overweight and have two or three metabolic disorders incur double the risk of having heart disease.

The same is not the case for white women. White women who are overweight or obese don’t have an increased risk of heart disease unless they also have metabolic syndrome.

Dr. Michele Schmeigelow of the Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte in Denmark shares that the intricacies of metabolic health have only been researched within the white population. Dr. Schmeigelow was the research team leader on this health issue at Stanford University and stated that the data isn’t directly applicable for Black women. She states that reviewing metabolic syndrome alone will underestimate the risk of this health problem for African-American women and overestimate it for white women.

The study was comprised of data from 14,364 women who were post-menopausal and Women’s Health Initiative participants. The women agreed to have their health monitored for 13 years. Hispanic women were also included in the study, but there were too few participants of Hispanic descent to draw any definite conclusions.

Dr. Robert Eckel, a University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine professor, asserted that there’s still a lot we don’t know about women and heart disease. He poses the notion that culture, race, environment and genetics, which can’t always be assessed accurately, are factors that can lead to heart disease. Eckel also states that these factors affect the health of cultures and races around the world. It also confirms that a customized approach to health is necessary.

It’s also important to note that African-Americans are less likely than their white peers to be aware of the fact that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women. Only 36 percent of Black women are aware that heart disease is the biggest risk to their health. Every year, 50,000 African-American women die from heart disease. It is also unsettling to know that 49 percent of Black women older than 20 have heart disease, yet only 52 percent know the symptoms and signs of a heart attack.

Aside from weight and metabolic disorders, physical inactivity, smoking and high blood pressure also contribute to the heart disease risk in Black women. African-American women are also more likely to die at an early age, when compared to women of other ethnicities.

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