October 23, 2017
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AHA: Heart disease, stroke shorten life expectancy of black Americans

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Mercedes R. Carnethon

Black individuals may live shorter lives compared with white people due to a higher CVD burden, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association published in Circulation.

“Despite advances in the identification of risk factors for CVD and the widespread use of evidence-based strategies to manage CVD, racial/ethnic disparities in CVD morbidity and mortality persist in the United States,” Mercedes R. Carnethon, PhD, FAHA, associate professor of preventive medicine (epidemiology) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and colleagues wrote in the statement. “Across nearly every metric, African-Americans have poorer overall cardiovascular health than non-Hispanic whites, and CVD mortality is higher in African-Americans than whites.”

The researchers issued the scientific statement to describe CV health among black individuals while highlighting disparities in CV health between black and white Americans, as well as presenting unique considerations for disease prevention and management.

The researchers found that rates of traditional CV risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity and atherosclerotic CV risk were common at a relatively early age among black people.

The researchers also found that hypertension was particularly high among black individuals and directly contributed to disparities in stroke, HF and peripheral artery disease.

Although effective pharmacotherapies and indications for tailored pharmacotherapies for black individuals have been made available, disease management is less effective for black patients, which confers higher mortality rates, Carnethon and colleagues wrote.

The researchers wrote that there is a need to promote equity of CV health in the black community by working toward a healthier environment. Some initiatives could include clear menu-labeling, enforcing smoke free-restaurants, incentives for food stores to build outlets in local food deserts and restricting the sale of non-nutritious foods in school systems.

“It is vital that we start preventing disparities by reaching children and young adults with education about the importance of a healthy lifestyle for maintaining health. Young adulthood is a time when a lot of people drop out of the health care system,” Carnethon said in a press release. “If there’s no safety net of health care available that emphasizes preventive care, then these disparities in the onset of risk factors are likely to persist.” by Dave Quaile

Disclosure: One author reports he serves as a consultant/advisory board member to Bayer Health Care.