Steps to Reduce Heart Disease in African-Americans

February 27, 2017

Reducing heart disease in african americans

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States, and the risk is even higher for African-Americans. Nearly 44 percent of African-American men and 48 percent of African-American women have some form of cardiovascular disease that includes heart disease and stroke.

Smoking, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes and a family history of heart disease are all prevalent among African-Americans and are major risk factors for heart disease.

It is important to start taking preventive measures today against heart disease. Only 1 in 5 African-American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, and only 36 percent of African-American women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk.

How can I reduce the risk of heart disease?

Heart disease affects more and more people each year, but it is something that you can take measures to help prevent. Here are some simple things that both men and women can start doing today to help reduce their risks.

Consume less salt

According to the American Heart Association, you should have no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. For most adults, an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 milligrams per day is recommended. This may seem difficult with all the delicious food options in Chicago, but we assure you it’s easier than you think. Stay away from foods that are high in sodium, such as processed foods, natural foods with a higher-than-average sodium content like cheese, seafood, olives, some legumes, table salt, sea salt, and some over-the-counter drugs.

Eat heart-healthy foods

Learn what foods are heart-friendly and how to prepare them. Follow these guidelines to help you choose heart-healthy foods, as well as learn what foods to avoid.

  • Read nutrition labels when buying prepared and prepackaged foods,
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables,
  • Eat fruit and raw vegetables as snacks,
  • Select unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils,
  • Select unsalted or low-sodium fat-free broths, bouillons or soup,
  • Avoid using canned vegetables with added salt when making homemade dishes,
  • Avoid salt during cooking. Try the food before you add salt for taste.


Find ways to enjoy the benefits of physical activity and gradually increase your activity level. If you are just starting to exercise again, it is best to start slowly with something you enjoy. You will find great options in Chicago for every fitness level. During the summer in Chicago try walking, hiking, jogging, running, cycling, rowing or swimming. In colder months, team sports, dance classes or yoga are perfect. The American Heart Association recommends 2 ½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. Try to aim for a total of 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity three to four times each week. This in turn will help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Remember you have to gradually increase your exercise level; so try exercising for at least 10-minute durations and gradually add more minutes to each session. 

If you have any questions about heart disease prevention or diagnosis, schedule an appointment with your care provider today. ACCESS has locations near you and our team of health care professionals is ready to help you learn more and take control of your health.