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Celebrate African American History Month!

Famiy going for a walkThis February celebrate African American History Month. Learn about how heart disease, cancer, and stroke impact African Americans and how to improve your 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, the U.S. President proclaims February as National African American History Month. Heart disease, cancer, and stroke are the leading causes of death for African Americans. Learn about these conditions and what you can do for health.

Heart Disease and Stroke

  • 1 in 3 deaths in the United States is due to cardiovascular disease. 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.
  • 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), heart attacks, 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.

Carletta was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41. Now cancer-free, she is motivated by her ability to do the things that she couldn’t do during treatment. She finished her first triathlon one year after her first round of chemotherapy.

Cancer

  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death among black people in the United States. Among men, black men get and die from cancer at higher rates than men of other races and ethnicities. Among women, white women have the highest rates of getting cancer, but black women have the highest rates of dying from cancer.
  • Breast cancer deaths are going down fastest among white women compared to women of other races and ethnicities. Black women have the highest death rates of all racial and ethnic groups, and are 40% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. The reasons for this difference result from many factors, including having more aggressive cancers and fewer social and economic resources. To improve this disparity, black women need more timely follow-up and improved access to high-quality treatment.
  • Prostate cancer is more common in black men. It tends to start at younger ages and grow faster than in men of other racial or ethnic groups, but medical experts do not know why.

Obesity, Nutrition, and Physical Activity

Obesity is a problem in the African American community and is related to conditions like heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Obesity is common, serious, and costly. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008.

  • African Americans are nearly 1.5 times as likely to have obesity as compared to non-Hispanic Whites.
  • From 2011-2014, the prevalence of obesity among African Americans was 48% compared to 35% of non-Hispanic Whites.
  • African Americans eat fewer vegetables than other racial/ethnic groups but eat similar amounts of fruit as non-Hispanic Whites.
  • More than half (56%) of African American adults 18 years of age and older do not meet the aerobic component of the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines.

What You Can Do For Your Health

Living a healthy lifestyle can help prevent heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Take these 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:
    • A ppropriate aspirin therapy for those who need it
    • B lood pressure control
    • C holesterol management
    • S moking cessation
  • Page last reviewed: February 6, 2017
  • Page last updated: February 6, 2017
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