Studies by the American Heart Association showed that the number of blacks suffering from heart failure is 20 times higher than that of whites.
One in 100 black men and women develop heart failure before age 50.
According to the Mayo Clinic, heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
Coronary artery disease and high blood pressure usually leave the heart weak or too stiff to pump as well as it should.
Tanya Tatum, director of Florida A&M University’s Student Health Services, said controlling factors like obesity and high cholesterol early on can help eliminate heart problems in the future.
“Eating right, exercising, getting sleep, seeing the doctor regularly, and avoiding stress are the simplest things people can do to keep a healthy heart,” Tatum said.
The AHA study showed that 4.2 percent of non-Hispanic blacks age 20 and older had heart failure.
In 2005, the overall death rate of blacks from heart failure was 52.3 percent.
Tatum said that alarming rates of blacks with heart problems comes from health illiteracy.
“African-Americans need to increase their knowledge of health and knowing family history is important because genetics play a big role in some of these diseases,” Tatum said.
According to the AHA, eating healthy is the main factor in maintaining a healthy heart.
Simple breakfast foods like oatmeal, which is full of omega-3 fatty acids, folate and potassium, can help keep cholesterol down and arteries clear.
Salmon is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids and can reduce blood pressure and keep clotting at a minimum.
“Reducing the intake of saturated fats from certain meats and hydrogenated fats in junk food are ways to maintain a healthy diet,” said WanaKee Howard, lead peer educator for FAMU Student Health Services.
Howard also suggested taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking to class instead of riding the school’s bus around campus as exercise alternatives.
Exercise plays a crucial role in keeping a healthy heart.
Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart and cardiovascular system, improves circulation to help the body use oxygen better, and lowers blood pressure.
Sherman Rosier, owner and founder of Fit & Functional, Inc., said the main thing young black people can do to stay heart healthy is to learn about nutrition.
“One big factor is changing poor habits, people must be ready to take on these measures to lead a more active, healthy lifestyle,” Rosier said.
The FAMU Recreation Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The center is equipped with free weights, exercise machines and aerobic exercise apparatus.
The center also offers numerous fitness and wellness activities. For more information call (850) 412-7281.
For those interested in starting a heart healthy diet and for more information on nutrition tips and facts please visit http://www.americanheart.org.