African Americans and Cardiovascular Disease

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Abstract
This paper introduces a new approach understanding about the risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in African Americans, to improve self-efficacy for diet and physical activity, and to increase intentions to eat healthier and be physically active. This paper examines the effects of risks associated with being an African American with cardiovascular disease. These changes in behavioral, educational and physical activity may reverse the effects of cardiovascular disease. Providing education about the risk factors for cardiovascular disease can offer a reduction in early death amongst young African American men.

African Americans and Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is a term used to describe diseases of the heart and blood vessels, in which the blood vessels are blocked and leads to various forms of CVD such as stroke, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, and congenital heart defects. According to the American Heart Association (2009), more Americans die from CVD than any other disease and African Americans are at a greater risk for the disease than any other ethnic group (pp32).

CVD is the number one killer of African American males in the United States. The American Heart Associations’ statistics show that 45.9% of African American men have some form of CVD, 32.4% of these African Americans will die before the age of fifty. Over 100,000 black men die each year from CVD; this is 274 men every day, and 11 men an hour. There are many factors that contribute to this disparity, but most of these factors can be corrected or prevented.

The cardiovascular diseases that are the greatest threat to African Americans are coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and high cholesterol. The risk factors or causes for these diseases are usually linked or overlapping, that is factors that contribute to high cholesterol also may cause stroke or heart disease. The methods of reversing or preventing these diseases are pretty similar or the same for one another. About the Major Diseases

Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death in the United States among African American men (Medline 2009); it is a disease where the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart narrow. This narrowing of the blood vessels is due to the buildup of plaque on the walls of the arteries; this plaque comes from an overload of cholesterol in the blood system. As the coronary arteries narrow, blood flow to the heart can slow down or even stop. “This can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, heart failure, and heart attacks” (Medline, 2009).

There are many factors that increase risk factors for CHD and there are factors that can be controlled and some factors you cannot control. The factors you cannot control are heredity, in which there is a family history of CHD especially if they had it before the age of fifty, and age or gender, where men are more susceptible to this disease and at an earlier age than women. Then there are factors that you can control such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, alcohol abuse, not exercising, and excessive stress.

High blood pressure (HBP) is the restriction of blood flow through the vessels thus putting extra strain on the heart and damaging blood vessels. African American Community Health Advisory Committee’s factsheet (2008) states, “Twenty-eight percent of African American men are affected by HBP, and it is the cause of 65,000 deaths a year.”

High blood pressure increases the pressure in the arteries, and as the heart pumps against this pressure, the heart has to work harder. If left untreated, this will cause the heart muscle to thicken and the left ventricle will become enlarged. The enlarging of the left ventricle reduces the amount of blood pumped by the heart each minute and congestive heart failure may occur. HBP also contributes to the...
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