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African Americans should be concerned about heart disease. Combined, heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death for African Americans, says Quinn Capers, MD, director of Peripheral Vascular Interventions at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and associate dean of Admissions at Ohio State’s College of Medicine.

When asked why African American health is important to him, Dr. Capers replied, “I am keenly interested in African American health because our health statistics lag behind others in almost every important category, and in arguably the most important measure of health: life expectancy.”

A few facts to consider:

•    African Americans lead in 24.5 percent of heart disease related deaths and complications.

•    One in two African American women will develop heart disease in their lifetime.

•    A woman with diabetes is at least three times more likely to have a heart attack.

•     High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease.

•    About half of Americans (49 percent) have at least one of these three risk factors.

Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:

•    Diabetes

•    Obesity and being overweight

•    Poor diet

•    Physical inactivity

•    Excessive alcohol use

But, there’s a lot you can do to prevent heart disease. Lifestyle changes are at the top of the list. These include quitting smoking and being more active – exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.

You also need to reduce the amount of fats, salt and sugar in your diet. Meeting with your physician each year for a blood pressure check and periodic screening for high cholesterol are other necessary steps to take. If you have heart disease, you should continue to take your medications. And, if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease or think you may be at risk, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider for a check-up.

To learn more about heart disease prevention, visit

The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine has been awarded the prestigious ‘Diversity in Cardiology’ award by the Association of Black Cardiologists. To read more about it visit