Splashing a little bit of water on her face didn’t calm Shermane Winters-Wofford’s first date jitters. And then what she perceived as nervousness escalated into sweating and tightness in her chest.
Although she didn’t experience the typical warning signs, Shermane was having a stroke.
A stroke? How could it be? After all, she thought of herself as perfectly healthy. But it turns out Shermane had been at risk all along. Like many other African-American women, she had a strong family history of high blood pressure and heart disease. Unfortunately, she didn’t discover this until it was almost too late.
Heart disease and stroke is the No. 1 killer in women, and stroke disproportionately affects African-Americans. Importantly, African-American women are less likely than Caucasian women to be aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death.
Diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and a family history of heart disease are all greatly prevalent among African-Americans and are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. What’s more, African-American women have almost two times the risk of stroke than Caucasians, and more likely to die at an earlier age when compared to women of other ethnicities.
Here are a few unsettling stats:
- Cardiovascular diseases kill nearly 50,000 African-American women annually.
- Of African-American women ages 20 and older, 49 percent have heart diseases.
- Only 1 in 5 African-American women believes she is personally at risk.
- Only 52 percent of African-American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
- Only 36 percent of African-American women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk.
The truth about high blood pressure
More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic blacks have high blood pressure, which is more severe in blacks than whites, and develops earlier in life. This little known fact is something that, if known and treated in advance, could have led to a more romantic first date for Shermane.
But why is it targeting African-Americans?
Researchers have found that there may be a gene that makes African-Americans much more sensitive to the effects of salt, which in turn increases the risk for developing high blood pressure. In people who have this gene, as little as one extra gram (half a teaspoon) of salt could raise blood pressure by as much as five millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
The African-American population also tends to have higher rates of obesity and diabetes, which puts them at greater risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. But for many African-American women, particularly those who consider themselves perfectly healthy, perception may not always equal reality.
By Aggregated Content – Go Red For Women, American Heart Assn on February 5, 2021
All health/medical information n this article, per the Go Red For Women, American Heart Assn website, has been reviewed and approved by the American Heart Association, based on scientific research and American Heart Association guidelines. Use this link for more information on our content editorial process.