Heart of the Matter: What African Americans Need to Know About Cardiovascular Health

February ushers in Black History Month as well as Heart Health Month, and that’s why we’re highlighting the importance of cardiovascular health for African Americans. Of course, your health is something you want to think about every day of the year, and here’s why it’s critical to pay attention to ethnicity in terms of wellbeing: Racial, ethnic, genetic, cultural and socioeconomic disparities in health care leave African Americans and other ethnic groups behind the curve when it comes to chronic diseases. For example:

There’s good news, though, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Though you can’t control your genetics, risk factors for heart disease plummet 82% when you quit smoking and control your diet and exercise. Understanding your risk factors and taking steps to address ones that you can control is key.

Talk to Your Doctor

When it comes to our health, knowledge is power. When you know what hereditary diseases affected your family, you’ll have a roadmap to understanding how to better protect yourself.

Make a standing date for an annual checkup—how about near your birthday, or at the six-month mark? When you’re at the doctor for your physical, you’ll likely have the following checks and lab work performed (and if not, ask for them):

How to Protect Yourself

I’ve had a long career in public health and served as Assistant Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. I’m proud to be part of a company that is on the forefront of personalized nutrition. I’ve learned this universal truth: Focusing on making healthy choices every day is the best thing you can do for long-term health.

Here are some things you can do:

Because we’re all unique individuals with different needs and circumstances, what works for your friend may not be right for you. Work with your doctor to come up with a customized plan that you’ll not only stick to, but also enjoy.

John Agwunobi, M.D., MBA, MPH – Co-President and Chief Health & Nutrition Officer

John AgwunobiM.D., MBA, MPH – Co-President and Chief Health & Nutrition Officer

Dr. Agwunobi holds an MPH from Johns Hopkins and an MBA from Georgetown University. He completed his pediatric residency at Howard University and is currently a licensed physician in Florida, Maryland, and Washington D.C. In previous roles, he served as senior vice president and president of health and wellness for Walmart, as well as Assistant Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.