Last week, Americans were expected to spend a record $19.6 billion on Valentine’s Day. Of course, most of that money is spent on someone else. While candy, flowers and lavish gifts top the most popular V-Day splurges, one of the best things you can do for you and people around you, is give the gift of better heart health.
This is especially true for African Americans, who are far more likely to have cardiovascular problems in their lifetime. Nearly half of African Americans (44 percent of men and 48 percent of women), have some form of heart disease, and because African Americans are more inclined to develop complications earlier in life, there is a much greater chance of experiencing life-threatening complications.
So, what can you do to stave off heart trouble? The short answer is, a lot. Most heart problems in African Americans stem from known risk factors that, when left unchecked, develop into major health problems. Here’s a look at the top three threats that could be impacting your cardiovascular health, along with steps you can take to make sure your heart – and your health – are in the right place.
High blood pressure.
Why it’s dangerous: African Americans have the highest blood pressure rates in the world, and women are especially at risk. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke, and because there are rarely signs, it is known as the “silent killer.”
What you should do: Don’t wait for symptoms, because they may never appear. Instead, make an appointment with your provider to get your blood pressure checked, and if it’s high, treat it before it sabotages your good health.
Why it’s dangerous: African Americans are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, which over time damages the blood vessels and nerves that control your heart.
What you should do: Diabetes is largely treatable and preventable if you take the risks seriously. First, get tested to see if you suffer from diabetes or prediabetes. If your risk is elevated, focus on losing weight, eating healthier and exercising to lower your diabetes risk and protect your heart.
Why it’s dangerous: Obesity is intertwined with many of the underlying conditions that cause cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. African Americans are more than one and a half times as likely to be obese, which helps explain why many struggle with heart disease.
What you should do: Lifestyle changes are a great start, but If you are really struggling, it may be time to enlist the help of a provider. Make an appointment to discuss a weight loss plan that works for you, and in the process, enlist your partner to take walks, make healthy meals rich in vegetables and lean meat, get more sleep and live heart healthier all year long.
The heart is a delicate thing, and we need to be doing more to make sure we’re not breaking it over time. As you take time this month to celebrate the healthy relationships in your life, listen to your heart. Taking better care of yourself may be the best gift you can give, and doing it with your partner can be a most romantic idea all year long.