Black American Risks for Heart Disease or Stroke

Heart disease kills more Americans than any other illness. Since 1970, life expectancy for Black American men has increased by 12 years. It has increased by ten years for Black American women. Not counting the years of the COVID pandemic, the life expectancy gap between Black and white individuals has continued to close.

But there is still a lot of work to do to address the health disparities between Black and white people in the United States.

Genetic Risk Factors for Heart Disease and Stroke

Heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events can happen at any age. Your risk for heart disease comes from your genetics plus lifestyle choices like smoking, diet, and your physical activity.

Genetic conditions like familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) or high lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a), significantly increase your risk for heart disease no matter how you live your life. You need to know if you have these conditions so you can take the steps to lower your risk.

Because you CAN lower your risk! Diagnosis is simple and treatments are available.


Black and white Americans have equal risk of inheriting FH

FH effects every race and ethnicity, but white individuals are more likely to be on cholesterol lowering medications.

This means Black individuals are not being effectively treated. The Black community is less protected against heart attack and stroke.

As a result, white men have the lowest incidence of high LDL cholesterol at 29.4%, compared to Black men at 30.7%. Approximately 32% of white women have high LDL cholesterol, while 33.6% of Black women have high levels.


Black Americans have significantly higher Lp(a) levels

New Family Heart Foundation research indicates that Black Americans have significantly higher Lp(a) levels compared to white individuals. And higher Lp(a) levels put people at higher risk of heart attack or stroke.

Knowing your risk for these common genetic conditions is the first step in improving care and protecting your family.

Additional Risk Factors for Heart Disease and Stroke

Black Americans are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic whites

Heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States, but Black Americans have a 30% higher chance of death from heart disease.


Black Americans are also 50% more likely to have high blood pressure

Not only are Black Americans more likely to have high blood pressure, but they tend to develop it at a younger age. Black individuals are also less likely to have their blood pressure under control.


Black Americans are 60% more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes

Black individuals are more likely to develop complications from diabetes. This includes kidney disease or hospitalization for uncontrolled blood sugar. Black Americans are also twice as likely to have lower limb amputation as a result of their diabetes.

Narrowing the Care Gap

Dr. George Mensah is a highly respected Black clinician and scientist. In his article, “Cardiovascular Disease in African Americans: Fostering Community Partnerships to Stem the Tide,” he provides practical thoughts on improving care for Black Americans.


Close the Wage Gap

Black Americans are twice as likely to live in poverty than white Americans. The social, economic, and community effects of poverty play an important role in the risk for heart disease and stroke.


Improve Access to Healthy Food and Active Lifestyles

Dr. Mensah points out that Black Americans are more likely to have poor diet. They also have less active lifestyles. This is often a result of social and economic stressors that disproportionately effect Black communities.


Provide Greater Educational Opportunities

One study found that lower education is as big a risk factor for death as smoking.

Dr. Mensah suggests partnering with communities to promote cardiovascular health. Communities need health care providers they trust. These relationships offer support to people trying to improve their diet, quit smoking, and make other healthy choices.

It’s crucial that we all work to improve the lives of every American. We can help everyone avoid the tragic consequences of heart disease and stroke.

When you know your risk, you know how to protect yourself and your family.