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Almost 400,000 women die of heart disease in the United States each year, and a large percentage of them are black females. In fact, diseases of the heart and circulation, which include heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease, hypertension, and diabetes, are responsible for killing more black women than anything else in our society. That includes cancer, although women tend to be more afraid of developing cancer than of getting heart trouble.African American women are especially affected by heart disease in a negative manner. They have a higher mortality or death rate than white women and black men under the age of 55 years. The mortality rate from coronary heart disease is 69% higher than for white women. In addition, the first heart attack occurs at an earlier age in black women and is more likely to be fatal than is the case in white women. And pre-menopausal women who have hypertension, which is more common in black women, have 10 times the heart attack risk of those without high blood pressure.

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Risk Factors in African American Women

Black women have the highest rates of what are called risk factors for cardiovascular disease in the country, when they are compared to men and women of their own race as well as other races. When you have a risk factor, which means that you are unusually likely to develop CVD, as opposed to people who have none. In addition, the more risk factors you have, the greater are the chance that you will have an adverse event involving the cardiovascular system such as a heart attack or a stroke. It has been well documented that African American women have the highest rates of the following risk factors:

* Smoking: 26% of black women smoke

* High blood pressure: about one-third of black women have hypertension

* Obesity: two-thirds of black women are overweight or obese

* Physical inactivity: the majority of black women do not exercise regularly

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