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Celebrate African American History Month!

Family going for a walkThis February celebrate African American History Month and Heart Health Month. Learn about how heart disease impacts African Americans, the Million Hearts initiative, and how to improve your heart health.

To commemorate and celebrate the contributions to our nation made by people of African descent, American historian Carter G. Woodson established Black History Week. First celebrated in 1926, the week was expanded into Black History Month in 1976 as part of the nation's bicentennial. Each year, U.S. presidents proclaim February as National African American History Month.

For More Information:
U.S. Census Bureau, Facts for Features Black (African-American) History Month: February 2016

Documenting Health Disparities

After years of observing poorer health for Blacks and other minorities in comparison to Whites, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Margaret Heckler, commissioned a powerful task force in 1984 to describe these health results more fully and to consider what the federal government could do to address them.The Secretary released the Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health in 1985, known as the Heckler Report, documenting the extent of health disparities affecting Americans of color and recommending action steps for the nation to address these disparities.

This was the first time the federal government provided a national picture of the health of racial and ethnic minorities. Since the publication of the Heckler Report, we are better able to describe more fully the health of all Americans.

Million Hearts: Learn & Prevent Heart Disease and Stroke

  • Every year, Americans suffer more than 1.5 million heart attacks and strokes. We're all at risk for heart disease and stroke. People of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities are affected. However, certain groups—including African Americans and older individuals are at higher risk than others.
  • Each day, approximately 2,200 people die from cardiovascular disease—that's more than 800,000 Americans each year, or 1 in every 3 deaths.
  • Together, heart disease and stroke account for more than $316.6 billion in health care costs and lost productivity annually—and these costs are rising. On a personal level, families who experience heart disease or stroke not only have to deal with medical bills but also lost wages and the potential of a decreased standard of living.
  • Nearly half of all African American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease that includes heart disease and stroke.
  • High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart attack and stroke in the United States. About 2 out of every 5 African American adults have high blood pressure, and less than half of them have it under control. African American adults are much more likely to suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension), and heart attack and stroke deaths than white adults. Individuals living below the federal poverty level are more likely to have high blood pressure compared with those living at the highest level of income.

Million Hearts™ initiative is a national public-private partnership that aims to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017 by using clinical and community prevention to improve the ABCS.

Mother and daughter shopping for produce

Learn what you can do for heart health.

What You Can Do For Heart Health

You can lower your chance of heart disease and a heart attack by taking simple steps.

  • Eat a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. Choose foods low in saturated fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
  • Exercise regularly. Adults needs 2 hours and 30 minutes (or 150 minutes total) of exercise each week. You can spread your activity out during the week, and can break it up into smaller chunks of time during the day.
  • Be smokefree. If you are ready to quit, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569 for Spanish speakers) for free resources, including free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials, and referrals to other resources where you live.
  • Limit alcohol use, which can lead to long-term health problems, including heart disease and cancer. If you do choose to drink, do so in moderation, which is no more than one drink a day for women and two for men.
  • Know your family history. There may be factors that could increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Manage any medical condition you might have. Learn the ABCS of heart health. Keep them in mind every day and especially when you talk to your health provider:
    • Appropriate aspirin therapy for those who need it
    • Blood pressure control
    • Cholesterol management
    • Smoking cessation
  • Page last reviewed: February 8, 2016
  • Page last updated: February 8, 2016
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