Heart disease continues to be a threat to Blacks

By Anjelicia Bruton
Outlook writer

Linda Mock is a 51-year-old mother, who like most African Americans, has a history of having high blood pressure.

She recently decided to undergo Gastro sleeve surgery to help her cope with high blood pressure. The surgery removed 80 percent of her stomach and could change her outlook on life.
But she felt compelled.

“Since I’ve had the surgery, I’ve lost 55 pounds,” she said. “I use to take four different types of blood pressure pills now I take none.”

While Mock’s condition is hereditary, the usual culprits of high blood pressure are fried foods and sodas – all foods that Mock admittedly indulged in.

Too much salt also is one of the leading causes of high blood pressure.

According to WebMD, there is a vast difference between Blacks and other races with high blood pressure. For instance, the percentage of Blacks with high blood pressure is 41 percent compared to 27 percent for Whites.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention studies have suggested that 44 percent of Black men and 48 percent of Black women will have some form of cardiovascular disease.

However, high blood pressure does not necessarily mean an individual will be at risk for heart disease, said Paula Carroll, a certified cardiovascular nurse.

“There are many causes,” she said. “For instance, having high blood pressure and having cholesterol levels that are high, but when I say high blood pressure I mean when it’s not treated.

“You can technically have high blood pressure, but if you’re on medication for it then it’s controlled. We have to control what we can control to help prevent it.”

However, for individuals like Mock whose condition is hereditary, high blood pressure cannot be controlled.

Some of the dietary practices by Blacks could be traced back to slavery, suggested Mary Copeland-Simmons, director of cardio pulmonary science at FAMU.

“In the African American community of how food is prepared it has been passed down through generations and it’s hard to get African Americans to change that mindset,” Copeland-Simmons said. “For example, I’ve been taught that collard greens were some sort of wild plant in the fields and that was all slaves were allowed to eat.

“It could be related to slavery and things we were allowed to eat. The scraps that they thought were scraps became a delicacy for African Americans.”

Doctors have suggested that medication, foods with minimal amounts of high sugar and carbohydrates, along with exercising regularly are lifestyle changes that could prevent or stabilize heart disease.

Still, others have taken the same measure as Mock, who has committed to a lifestyle change since her surgery.

“Now, my blood pressure is low and my feet are not swelling from fluid anymore, I’m eating well,” Mock said. “I eat only some fried foods a lot less than before and my body is pretty healthy now.”
While swollen feet were the symptom for Mock, there are countless other signs of heart disease. None of them should be taken lightly, Carroll said.

“Some people don’t have any symptoms,” she said. “But on the other hand, you could witness shortness of breath with exertion, becoming tired easily.

“The most common that people recognize most frequently is chest pain. It could be in the center of their chest, in their arm, neck, might not be considered to be associated with signs of heart disease. And sometimes in women you could just feel nauseated.”