Source: American Heart Association

For a printable version click here!

 2008 African American Heart Health Tool Kit

Facts about African Americans, Heart Disease and Stroke

Goals for a Longer, Stronger Life

Overweight and Obesity: What You Can Do

Heart-Healthy Cooking Tips

Heart Disease and Stroke Warning Signs

Free Programs for a Healthy Life

Facts About African Americans, Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke 

  • Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death for African-American men and women, killing more than 102,000 annually. 
  • In 2004, among African Americans who died, cardiovascular disease was the cause of death in 32.9 percent of males and 38.1 percent of females. 
  • African Americans are almost twice as likely to have a first-ever stroke compared to Caucasians and 18,000 blacks die from stroke each year.
  • About 49 percent of non-Hispanic black women and 45 percent of non-Hispanic black men have cardiovascular diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the NationalCenter for Health Statistics and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.



  • The prevalence of hypertension among African Americans in the United States is among the highest in the world.
  • Compared to Caucasians, African Americans develop high blood pressure at an earlier age, and their average blood pressure is much higher. As a result African Americans have a 1.5 times greater rate of heart disease deaths and a 1.8 times greater rate of fatal stroke.
  • For non-Hispanic blacks age 20 and older, 42.6 percent of men and 46.6 percent of women have high blood pressure, a leading cause of stroke.
  • African Americans and Caucasians in the southeastern United States have higher death rates from stroke than those in other regions of the country.


·        Among non-Hispanic blacks age 20 and older, 44.8 percent of men and 42.1 percent of women have total blood cholesterol levels over 200 mg/dL.


·        Non-Hispanic black women have a 2 times higher prevalence of diabetes than non-Hispanic white women.


·        Among non-Hispanic black women, 79.6 percent are overweight and obese 51.1 percent are obese; 67 percent of non-Hispanic black men are overweight and obese and 30.8 percent of these are obese.

Physical Activity

·        Physical inactivity is more prevalent among African Americans than Caucasians.  Among non-Hispanic black men and non-Hispanic black women, 45.9 percent and 36.3 percent respectively, are considered regularly active.

·        African Americans are one of the least active groups in terms of overall physical activity.

Cigarette Smoking

·        In 2005, 26.7 percent of non-Hispanic black males and and 17.3 percent of non-Hispanic black females smoke cigarettes.

·        Research shows that cigarette smoking approximately doubles a person’s risk for stroke.

Goals for a Longer, Stronger Life

    Total Cholesterol                                Less than 200 mg/dL


    LDL (bad) Cholesterol                          LDL Cholesterol goals vary: For people who don’t have heart disease and   only one                                                                or no risk factors, the goal is less than 160 mg/dL. For most people with two or more                                                             risk factors,  the goal is less than 130 mg/dL.


    HDL (good) Cholesterol                        60 mg/dL or higher for women and 40 mg/dL or higher for men

  • Triglycerides                                      Less than 150 mg/dL
  • Blood Pressure                                   Less than 120/80 mmHg
  • Fasting Glucose                                  Less than 100 mg/dL
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)                         Between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2
  • Waist Circumference                           Less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men
  • Physical Activity                                  Do moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week or do vigorously                                                                   intense cardio 20 minutes a day, three days a week.  Do six to eight strength training                                                             exercises, 8 to 12 repetitions each, twice a we.
  • Healthful Eating                                   Emphasize a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole-grain, high-fiber foods, fat free or                                                             low-fat dairy products, fish, legumes and sources of protein low in saturated fat (e.g.,                                                            poultry, lean meats and plant sources)
  • Tobacco Smoke                                  If you smoke, STOP!
  • Doctor Visits                                      See your doctor regularly.  If a healthful diet and regular physical activity are not                                                                  enough to reduce your risk of heart disease, ask about medication and take it as                                                                   prescribed.  Even if you take medication, a healthful diet and physical activity are                                                                  important

Overweight and Obesity:

What You Can Do

  1. About 112,000 deaths each year in the United States are associated with obesity.
  2. Sixty-six percent of adults in the United States were overweight and obese from 2001 to 2004 according to NHANES.
  3. Overweight and obesity are associated with heart disease, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, stroke, arthritis, breathing problems and psychological disorders such as depression.

Physical Activity: Weight Control and Other Benefits

Regular physical activity helps weight control and weight loss when done in conjunction with a calorie-reduction eating plan.  Besides helping to control weight, physical activity helps prevent heart disease, including stroke.  It also helps to control diabetes, slow bone loss associated with aging, lowers the risk of certain cancers and helps reduce anxiety and depression.

Physical Activity in the United States

Many people in the United States live sedentary lives.  In fact, only 30.9 percent of adults in the United States participate in regular physical activity.

Heart-Healthy Cooking Tips

Eat less cholesterol, salt and saturated and trans fats.  Eating less saturated fat and trans fat helps to lower blood cholesterol levels.  Eating fewer calories will help you lose weight, especially when you also enjoy regular physical activity.  Eating less salt and more potassium helps control blood pressure in most people.  Focusing your diet on foods such as fat-free and low-fat dairy fruits, vegetables and whole-grain, high-fiber foods is essential to good health.

Here are some tips to help make your meals healthful:


  • Steam, bake, broil or stir-fry foods in canola or olive oil instead of deep-frying in shortening or bacon grease.


  • Use vinegar, lemon juice, hot red pepper flakes, garlic and onions or other low-salt spices instead of salt.
  • Use little or no salt when you cook noodles, spaghetti, rice or hot cereal.

Salad Dressing

  • Use low-fat, low-calorie or fat-free salad dressings.


  • Use soft tub margarine instead of butter, or use other spreads that are lower in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, such as a stick of margarine.


  • Limit egg yolks to three or four per week, or eat egg whites instead.


  • Buy fresh lean cuts of meat and trim the fat before cooking.
  • Eat turkey, chicken and very lean beef or pork.
  • Remove the skin from poultry before cooking except when roasting a whole chicken.
  • Broil, bake or roast meats instead of frying them.


·        Use canola, olive, corn or safflower oil in cooking.

·        Use fat-free, calorie-free cooking spray to provide a non-stick surface for wokware, bakeware and grills.


·        Limit saturated calories to less than 7 percent of your total calories and trans-fat calories to less than 1 percent of your total calories.

How To Choose Foods Low in Saturated Fat

Using low-saturated-fat, low-trans-fat, low-cholesterol recipes makes it easier to cook healthful meals.  You can do a lot with your favorite recipes or everyday meals to control the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat.

Here are some low-saturated-fat food substitutions:

Instead of…                                                                            Try…                                      

Whole milk (1 cup)                                                        Fat-free evaporated milk (1 cup)

Heavy cream (1 cup)                                                     Evaporated fat-free milk (1 cup)

Sour cream                                                                  Low-fat or fat-free sour cream

Cream cheese                                                              Low fat or whipped cream cheese

Butter (1 tbsp.)                                                            1 Tbsp. polyunsaturated margarine or ¾ tbsp. polyunsaturated or monounsaturated oil

Shortening (1 cup)                                                        Tub margarine (1 cup)

Eggs (1 egg)                                                                 1 egg white plus 2 tsp. of unsaturated oil

Unsweetened baking chocolate (1 oz)                             3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder or carob powder and 1 tbsp. polyunsaturated oil or margarine.  Carob is sweeter than cocoa so reduce sugar in recipe by ¼

How To Use Cooking Oils

When cooking requires using fat, use liquid vegetable oils that have less than two grams of saturated fat per tablespoon and 0 grams trans fat:

·        To brown lean meats and to pan or oven fry fish and skinless poultry

·        To sauté onions and other vegetables for soup

·        In sauces and soups made with fat-free milk

·        In shipped or scalloped potatoes

·        For popping corn

·        In casseroles made with dried peas or beans

·        When cooking dehydrated potatoes and other prepared foods

HowTo Limit Salt in Your Food

Eating more salt than the body needs can lead to high blood pressure in some people.  People with high blood pressure are more likely to develop heart problems or have a stroke.

·        Limit salt in cooking.

·        Use herbs and spices, instead of salt.

·        When using canned vegetables, drain the liquid and rinse them in water before cooking.

·        Read food labels carefully, watching for sodium on the nutrition facts panel.

Know the Warning Signs of Heart Attack and Stroke

Warning Signs of Heart Attack

Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most start slowly with mild pain or discomfort with one or more of these symptoms:

·        Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

·        Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

·        Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.

·        Other signs. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Warning Signs of Stroke

The key to recognizing signs of a stroke is that they are SUDDEN:

·        Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body

·        Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

·        Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

·        Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

·        Sudden severe headache with no known cause

If you or someone you know experiences any of the heart attack or stroke warning signs,

call 9-1-1 immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms started.  It’s very important to take action immediately. Getting to the hospital in time may help reduce the devastating effects of these medical emergencies.

Where to Get More Information about Heart Disease and Stroke

  • Talk to your doctor or healthcare professional.  If you have heart disease or have had a stroke, members of your family may also be at risk.  It’s important for them to make changes now to lower their risk.
  • Call 800-AHA-USA1 (800-242-8721) or browse americanheart.org to learn more about heart disease.
  • Call 888-4-STROKE (800-478-7653) or visit strokeassociation.org to learn more about stroke.


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