Working to improve the heart health of African American women

Every two minutes, a woman dies from heart disease. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. However, author Alice Walker once said “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” For combating heart disease, women have a great deal of power.

“Risk factors like high blood pressure and obesity are more common in African American women, and can lead to heart disease,” says Dr. Nakela Cook, chief of staff and cardiologist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). “African American women have a greater risk of dying from heart disease than women of other race and ethnicity groups.”

More than 46 percent of African American women have high blood pressure, and 57.5 percent suffer from obesity, according to the 2009-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

However, you have the power to protect your heart and lower your risk for heart disease. You can start today. Following a healthy lifestyle can prevent or control heart disease and its risk factors.

The NHLBI, part of the National Institutes of Health, recommends these steps to help you improve your heart health and lower your chances of developing heart disease:

* See your health care provider for a checkup. Ask your doctors for help in achieving your heart health goal.

* Set realistic, specific goals for a heart healthy lifestyle by following the DASH eating plan, which can be found online at

* Act on your goals. Take one step at a time. Regular physical activity is a powerful way to keep your heart healthy.

* Keep a record of your daily food intake and physical activity. Use the President’s Challenge Active Lifestyle Activity Log, found online at

* Figure out what’s stopping you from making or sticking to healthy lifestyle changes. Get back on track when you slip up. Don’t give up.

* Reward yourself for the gains you’ve made with something you like to do, not with food.

* Involve friends and family and encourage them to join you in making healthy lifestyle changes!

Continuing to support the research that matters

Findings from NHLBI-funded studies, like the groundbreaking Women’s Health Initiative, have led to improved health care and better prevention of heart disease for women. The NHLBI-sponsored The Heart Truth program works in partnership with national and community organizations to raise awareness and educate and motivate women to take action to prevent heart disease and control its risk factors.

To continue to tackle heart disease and other heart, lung, blood, and sleep issues for all Americans, NHLBI recently launched the Strategic Visioning Initiative, which seeks ideas and input from the public about how to shape NHLBI scientific research priorities over the next decade. NHLBI encourages you to add your voice to the conversation.

Learn more from NHLBI:

* Heart disease and risk factors:

* Women’s Health Initiative:

* The Heart Truth:

* Strategic Visioning Initiative:



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