Heart desease stalking ethnic groups

For the Mirror

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all racial and ethnic groups. In fact, African-Americans in King County have the highest death rates from stroke and coronary heart disease, compared to any other racial or ethnic group.

That’s the warning from local health officials, who note that a major risk factor for heart disease is high blood pressure –– or hypertension –– which is highly prevalent among African-Americans.

The risk is also higher in Mexican-Americans, American Indians, native Hawaiians and some Asian-Americans, officials advised.

Close to 85 percent of people who die from coronary heart disease are over the age of 65. Officials said that raises a question: How can seniors and people of color reduce their risks?

There are several factors to consider. Age, race or heredity are among factors that people can’t change. However, risk factors such as smoking, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure can be changed by modifying behavior or with medications, officials said.

According to the Seattle-King County Public Health Department, a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent heart disease.

Dr. Cheza Garvin, who works in the Health Department’s chronic disease prevention and aging program, said stress plays a large role in heart disease.

“High stress levels maintained over time lead to changes in body chemistry, as well as mood. This may be a particular problem for people of color. That makes it more difficult to manage weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle,” Garvin said.

Heart disease treatment, prevention or delaying disease are very possible, she said. Certain lifestyle changes prevent heart disease and can help reverse its effects in people who have it.

Healthy Aging Partnership (HAP), a coalition of 40 Puget Sound-area not-for-profit and public health organizations, offers these suggestions to help older adults and people of color reduce their risk of heart disease:

• Participate in moderate physical activity five or more days a week, 30 minutes each day and at least 10 minutes at a time.

• Get regular checkups to test blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels and keep them under control.

• Eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Additional information is available from HAP at 1-435-3377) and

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