Author: Mackenzie Heidkamp
Since 1910, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the United States. However, in the past 21 years, there has been a decline in the overall CVD (Coronary vascular disease) mortality rate. According to a 2016 study led by Dr. Stephen Sidney, “The annual rates of decline for total CVD mortality for 2000-2011 were 3.69% (3.48% to 3.89%) for males and 3.98% (3.81% to 4.14%) for females” (Sidney). If mortality rates continue to decline at the same rate, heart disease may be replaced for the leading cause of death in America. This huge advancement in the nation is mostly due to advocates in and outside the medical community that have been trying to prevent and research heart disease. Knowing this information, ethnic communities, specifically Black communities, still have a large number of CVD mortalities even with the decline in overall heart related deaths nationwide.
Due to the different social barriers that Black communities struggle with, they have been statistically proven to be more prone to CVD related problems. In fact, the American Heart Association has shared 3 very important facts in order to spread information about health care inequality: (1) “CVD age-adjusted death rates are 33% higher for Blacks than for the overall population in the U.S.”, (2) “Blacks are nearly twice as likely to have a first stroke and much more likely to die from one than whites”, (3) “High blood pressure is more prevalent in certain racial/ethnic minority groups in the U.S., especially Blacks” (American Heart Association). These three statistics are extremely informative because they clearly draw a connection between race and heart disease. The first two facts definitely led to the conclusion that Blacks have been consistently dying more than other races in America from heart problems, while the third fact gives one reason why. Blacks are repeatedly dying from heart disease because they have been shown to “have higher rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes – the four major risk factors for heart disease” (UT Southwestern). These four major risk factors have been connected to social influences in black communities.
What are the Social Influences?
Throughout the Nation’s history, Blacks have been experiencing deep systemic racism whether consciously or not. Communities that deal with racism have been shown to deal with large amounts of stress and anxiety which directly correlates to high blood pressure, one of the four major risk factors. Racism toward Black individuals has also occurred multiple times during doctor and patient interactions. Bad experiences with those types of doctors may create a lack of trust in the Black patient causing them to hesitate to talk to physicians in order to treat medical problems which overall leads to worse medical outcomes. Another huge social factor is the lack of insured individuals in Black communities. In 2018, 11.5 percent of Blacks in America did not have health insurance (KFF). With a lack of health insurance there are obviously more unaddressed health problems, such as heart disease or high blood pressure. Lastly, Black communities tend to have unequal access to quality education and they tend to experience more significant income inequality. Both of these problems can result in unhealthier decisions such as eating fast food or skipping physical activity. This is because families who have less money are forced to buy hamburgers off the dollar menu instead of a 20 dollar vegan quinoa bowl. For these reasons, of all the Black Americans, “48 percent are clinically obese” (American Psychological Association).
Race should not be a risk factor for heart disease. In order to lower CVD related death rates in Black communities, people need to be educated about the inequalities causing these problems. Specifically, healthcare professionals need to be aware that an African-American individual may be at more risk for certain conditions than a White individual in order to properly care for the situation. Hopefully there will be more research about the racial disparities in health, so that the Nation as a whole can combat these problems.