Health Divide: Heart Disease Risk Factors

Racial and ethnic minorities, particularly the Black community, face disproportionately higher rates of chronic diseases, notably heart disease, largely driven by obesity. This article delves into how obesity elevates heart disease risk among Black people.

Understanding Obesity Obesity, characterized by excessive fat accumulation, is measured using BMI, despite its limitations. In the U.S., obesity is notably higher among African-American adults compared to White individuals. This disparity is attributed to factors like food insecurity, systemic oppression, and socioeconomic challenges.

Obesity and Heart Disease in Black People Obesity in the Black community is linked to various health conditions that elevate heart disease risk, including hypertension, dyslipidemia, type 2 diabetes, and sleep disorders. The condition necessitates increased blood flow, leading to higher blood pressure and, consequently, greater heart disease risk.

Factors Contributing to Obesity Obesity results from a mix of behavioral, environmental, and genetic factors. In many low-income Black communities, factors like physical inactivity, poor diet, and food deserts, exacerbated by targeted junk food marketing, are prevalent. The COVID-19 pandemic further intensified these issues due to increased sedentary lifestyles and mental health challenges.

Risk Factors and Biological Sex Various alterable and inalterable risk factors contribute to obesity. These include lifestyle choices, socioeconomic status, neighborhood conditions, and genetic predispositions. Additionally, biological sex plays a role, with Black and Latinx females experiencing higher obesity rates.

Healthcare Provider Interaction Effective management of obesity involves open discussions with healthcare providers. However, many Black individuals prefer healthcare providers who understand their cultural context. Despite Black Americans constituting 13.4% of the U.S. population, only 5.4% of physicians are Black. This gap highlights the importance of initiatives to increase the number of Black healthcare providers.

Prejudice in Healthcare Implicit bias in healthcare often compromises the care received by Black individuals. Culturally specific care from Black healthcare providers tends to be more effective for this community.

Integrative Treatment Approach An integrative approach to obesity includes medication, lifestyle changes, and therapy. Medications can help manage obesity by reducing hunger or fat absorption. However, they are most effective when combined with lifestyle modifications. Therapy can also aid in addressing obesity, but it is not a substitute for lifestyle changes.

Lifestyle Modifications Lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, a heart-healthy diet, smoking cessation, and stress management, are crucial in preventing and managing obesity. Group exercises can be particularly effective due to the support and accountability they offer.

Surgery and Resources In some cases, bariatric surgery may be considered to reduce coronary artery disease risk. Various national resources provide support and connect individuals with Black healthcare providers.

Conclusion Obesity is a critical health issue, particularly in the Black community, contributing to various health complications and reduced life expectancy. Addressing obesity requires a combination of therapy, stress management, and lifestyle changes. Preventive measures are key to long-term weight management and overall health improvement.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  2. National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  3. American Heart Association
  4. Obesity Action Coalition (OAC)
  5. STOP Obesity Alliance
  6. Obesity Care Advocacy Network (OCAN)
  7. African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network
  10. Circulation Journal (American Heart Association)
  11. National Council on Aging’s (NCOA)

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