By Kathy Cunningham

heartOften overlooked by the chocolate hearts and valentines, February is also recognized as Black History Month and American Heart Month.

This serves as a good time to celebrate the diversity and contributions of Black Americans, as well as remember the health inequities that exist when it comes to the impact of heart disease on our community. While heart disease and stroke are the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers – claiming more than 865,000 lives each year – and the way that these health issues more severely affect Blacks are striking:

  • Black women and men have much higher coronary heart disease (CHD) death rates in the 45–74 age groups than White, Asian and Latino women and men.
  • A higher percentage of Black women (37.9%) than White women (19.4%) died before age 75 as a result of CHD, as did Black men (61.5%) compared with White men (41.5%).
  • The same Black-White difference was seen among women and men who died of stroke: a higher percentage of Black women (39%) died of stroke before age 75 compared with White women (17.3%) as did Black men (60.7%) compared to White men (31.1%).

Boston Public Health Commission is proud to be confronting these inequities head on with the recent funding opportunity provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s REACH (Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health) to reduce obesity and hypertension among black and Latino residents citywide. Through this grant, we will be building on effective clinical strategies to improve hypertension screening and control, as well as identifying organizational policies that address sodium reduction.

Understanding that heart disease and stroke impacts all Boston residents, we encourage everyone to learn more about they can do to live heart healthy lives.  The Million Hearts™ campaign brings together communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and private-sector partners from across the country to fight heart disease and stroke.  The program seeks to empower people to make healthy choices, by avoiding tobacco and reducing red meat and sodium intake, as well as improving care for people who already need treatment.

If you would like to find out more about what aspects of life you can make better choices for your health, try out My Life Check. This tool helps you find what simple steps you may need to take to improve your heart health and quality of life.

Living a heart-healthy life needs a lot of practice and it can be hard to achieve it alone.  This month we hope that you will follow our blog and us on Twitter to get tips  on how to move more and eat healthier which will help to risk of heart disease and stroke for all Boston residents.

Kathy Cunningham, M.Ed, is a registered dietician at the Boston Public Health Commission.