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Heart Disease: the Number One Killer of Black Men in U.S.

Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, November 6, 2011

Updated: Sunday, November 6, 2011 22:11

Heart disease takes more lives than HIV/AIDS, cancer and crime combined, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number one killer of black men in the U.S. is heart disease, which is irreversible but preventable.

More than 1.1 million Floridians were admitted to hospitals with heart ailments between 2000 and 2006, said the report from the CDC.

Florida beat both Texas, who ranked second with 980,000 and California, which has the largest senior population, with 877,000 admissions. Both states have larger populations than Florida.

Robert McEachin, a Tallahassee resident, lost his father to the disease just a few years ago. McEachin admired his father's strength.

"He was one of the strongest men that I had ever seen," said McEachin. "But during the latter stages of his life, when he was around 75 or 76 years old, he started to get chest pains."

Coronary heart disease is the leading killer for black men. It is the narrowing of the small blood vessels, causing loss of oxygen and blood flow.

The highest rates of heart disease were seen in the South and among black Americans, according to studies done by the CDC.

Rates for heart disease have decreased among whites and Hispanics, but have remained steady in the black community.

At first, McEachin's father had to be forced to go to the doctors because he said he simply didn't like to go.

In a study reported in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, research showed black males are less trusting of the healthcare system.

It also showed that those with stronger commitment to masculine rules are less likely to check for blood pressure and cholesterol.

Robert's father was diagnosed with heart disease and soon suffered from angina.

"He'd stay in the hospital for about three four days and then he'd go back home. My cousin told us that we better enjoy the time we have with him," said McEachin.

In 2007, the CDC reported black males were thirty percent more likely to die from heart disease than their counterparts.

Risk factors like smoking, obesity and high cholesterol contribute to the ethnic health disparity. But healthcare professionals still

struggle to understand why black males are so disproportionately affected.

Dr. Afolabi Sangosanya, a board certified cardiologist at Capital Regional Medical Center, said Americans may never know the true cause for the disparity, but black males should do all they can to prevent the disease. Sangosanya said men should start screening as early as thirty.

"Beta blockers and statin drugs all help stabilize…and try to off-load the heart," said Sangosanya.

The doctor also said that there is a pattern of younger black males suffering from cardiovascular disease. The best way to prevent a diagnosis is by making better lifestyle choices, cutting out risk factors and knowing both your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

At Florida A&M, the Sunshine Manor and FAMU Health Services are resourceful places to check for risk factors like stress levels and high blood pressure.

As for Robert, he's determined to live a healthier life.

"I eat more vegetables, I exercise, and try to reduce as much stress in my life as possible," McEachin said. 

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