woman getting a heart checkup


Black Americans at higher risk of heart disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, responsible for more than 650,000 deaths each year. Black Americans are at a greater risk of developing heart disease than other people in other ethnic groups. Keep reading to learn why, how to improve your heart health if you are Black, and when to see a heart care provider.

But first, if you have continuous heart pain or stroke-like symptoms such as weakness on one side of your body or slurred speech, seek medical treatment right away and consider calling 911.

Heart disease risk factors
in Black Americans

When it comes to your heart care, you can’t miss a beat. Yet Black people and other communities of color face critical barriers to health equity, such as income inequality and a lack of access to quality heart care. Black people in the U.S. also have significant risk factors for heart disease such as: 

High blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is more common, more severe and starts earlier in life for Black people than for people of other ethnic groups. High blood pressure means your heart is working harder than it should, which increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke. How a doctor decides it could be a heart attack.

High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because you can have serious heart damage before you have symptoms. Don’t let high blood pressure sneak up on you. Early treatment is your best defense. Learn what your numbers should be and how to control your blood pressure.

Food insecurity

Not everyone has easy access to healthy food. In 2020, about one in five Black households didn’t have consistent access to enough food to live a healthy life, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. People with food insecurity are also more likely to eat processed foods, which increases the risk of high blood pressure.


If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to develop heart disease or experience a stroke. Blacks in the U.S. are 60 percent more likely to develop diabetes than non-Hispanic whites. While there isn’t a cure, diabetes care can help you control how the disease impacts your daily life. Obesity is one of the most significant risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.


Obesity is a complex disease. If you’re medically overweight, you’re likely to have higher blood pressure and are at greater risk to develop heart disease. That’s because your heart works harder to pump blood through your body if you have too much fat. Black people are about 1.5 times as likely to be obese compared with non-Hispanic whites, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC).

Managing a healthy weight isn’t as easy if you work from a desk all day. Learn how to manage your weight at work.

Racial trauma

From coping with police-involved killings to hate crimes and everyday racism, racial trauma impacts mental and physical health. When stress increases, so does your heart rate.

Reduce your risk of heart disease

  • Track blood pressure and cholesterol. High blood pressure is more common and more severe among Black people. Work with your health care provider to control your blood pressure and cholesterol to prevent advanced heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
  • Watch your weight. Weight control can be challenging when life gets in the way. Allina Health Weight Management can help you lose weight safely with a customized program for your unique heart health and wellness goals.
  • Maintain a heart-healthy diet. Some of your favorite foods and drinks could hurt your heart. Include a variety of heart-healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Cut down on sodium (salt), saturated fat and sugar. That means fewer cheese-filled burgers, mac and cheese, fried fish and desserts. 

    Explore healthy recipes
    from Allina Health experts.
  • Get moving. Exercise can improve your blood pressure, manage your stress, give you better quality sleep and help you lose weight. With your busy schedule, prioritizing your heart health may seem daunting. Stay in rhythm with seven manageable ways to improve your heart health in 24 hours.
  • Get enough sleep. Your blood pressure goes down when you sleep. That means your blood pressure stays higher longer if you have trouble sleeping. Work with your health care provider and get sleep care when a lack of sleep interferes with your everyday life.
  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco in any form. Smoking is a top risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. Tobacco can elevate your blood pressure, causing heart and blood vessel damage.

Expanding equal access to
quality heart care

Allina Health Minneapolis Heart Institute expands easy access to specialized heart care to underserved communities. We’ll connect your plan to a compassionate team dedicated to delivering the best possible outcomes, whether virtual or in-person. Get convenient access to affordable care when you need it most. Financial assistance for necessary medical care is available.

When to seek heart care

The best time to seek heart care is before you experience serious health concerns such as heart attack symptoms. When you’re ready to take charge of your heart health, our heart care teams are here to help. Schedule an appointment to create a customized heart care plan. 


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