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Race And Heart Disease An Equal Opportunity Killer 
Park Plaza Hospital 
Friday, 23 January 2004 

Race and Heart Disease: An Equal Opportunity Killer

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of more than 40% of Americans who die each year. These include diseases of the heart, stroke, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, heart defects, hardening of the arteries and other circulatory diseases.

"The effects of cardiovascular disease are felt among all racial and ethnic groups," said Dr. Andrew Civitello, a cardiologist at Park Plaza Hospital. "In that way, you might say they are equal-opportunity killers. But there are differences in the rates of heart disease and related illnesses among various racial and ethnic groups. Knowing these different risk factors may help you take steps to protect yourself and your family."

Among the major racial groups, white people suffer the highest death rate from cardiovascular disease. It accounts for the deaths of 42.5% of white women and 38.6% of white men. African-Americans aren’t far behind. Some 40.8% of African-American women and 33.8% of African-American men die of cardiovascular disease.

The lowest death rates from cardiovascular disease are among American Indians/Alaska natives. For this group, 27% of women and 25.2% of men die of cardiovascular disease.

For Hispanics, the figures are 28.2% for men and 33.7% for women, and for Asian/Pacific Islanders, they are 36.2% for men and 36.3% for women.

Beyond the mortality rates, African-Americans have the greatest incidence of cardiovascular disease: 41% of men and 40% of women suffer from these illnesses. African-Americans - both men and women - have a correspondingly high rate of high blood pressure. The rate of high blood pressure in African-Americans in the U.S. ranks among the highest in the world, according to the American Heart Association.

Compared with other racial groups, African-Americans are more likely to be overweight and have diabetes, and are less physically active. These conditions all increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Among whites, 30% of men and 24% of women have cardiovascular disease, while for Hispanics the figures are 29% for men and 27% for women.

"Hispanic women are more likely and Hispanic men are less likely than whites to have high blood pressure," said Dr. Civitello. "Hispanics also are less likely than whites and African Americans to be aware of their high blood pressure, to have it treated or to have it controlled."

The high rate of cardiovascular disease has huge costs, not only in lives, but in dollars. It is estimated that medical treatments and disabilities related to cardiovascular disease are costing Americans some $330 billion a year.

"There are, of course, steps people can take to lessen their risk of developing and dying of cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Civitello. "Research has shown that through diet, weight loss, exercise and lifestyle changes, the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease may be reduced."

Doctors and other health professionals believe that following some simple guidelines may help improve your health:

· Eat foods low in saturated fat and keep your overall fat intake at a minimum.

· Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods.

· Limit your sodium intake, both in the products you buy and the salt you add in cooking and at the table. Try to stay below 2,400 mgs per day (about a teaspoon).

· Limit alcohol intake to no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks per day for men (or an ounce of alcohol overall).

· Make sure your diet includes foods high in potassium and eat plenty of low-fat or non-fat dairy products.

· Engage in physical activity at least 20-30 minutes a day 4-5 days a week.

· Refrain from smoking.

Park Plaza Hospital is offering the cardiac risk assessment screenings on Saturday, Feb. 14th from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Education Center located at 1200 Binz, Suite 140 for a small cash fee. No insurance will be billed.  The screening will include: blood pressure check, total cholesterol, body mass and blood glucose. Please RSVP at 1-888-TENET-4U.

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