Commentary: Heart Disease the Top Killer of Black Men

Coronary complications now kill more people than AIDS and cancer combined, but you can fight back.

Posted: 11/15/2011 12:40 PM EST
Filed Under obesity, nutrition, AIDS

Living in the United States can be dangerous. We’ve got natural disasters, street crime and auto accidents that kill people every day, and there’s often little to nothing people can do about it. Sometimes people just die. But the biggest killer of Black men today is something we actually can do something about, and it’s important to begin now before it’s too late for yet another generation of African-American males.

Heart disease now kills more people annually than AIDS, cancer and crime combined, and Blacks are far from immune to the havoc it creates. In fact, heart disease is now the number-one cause of death for African-American men, who pass by the thousands every year thanks to a loss of circulation to the cardiac muscle.

Some people can’t avoid heart disease, of course. Just as some marathon runners end up developing cancer, heart disease can sneak up on even the healthiest of America’s citizens. But studies show that one can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease by eating right, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. The problem is that many African-Americans, like millions of Americans of all races, find keeping up a healthy lifestyle hard to do.

African-Americans have higher rates of obesity than whites, and they smoke more as well. Then there is nutrition: Some of our favorite meals and snacks are not heart-healthy, to say the least — think fried foods, cuts of meat with high fat content, potato chips or pumpkin pie. On top of all that, Black children are less likely than white children to exercise regularly. The result of all this inactivity is a community that struggles with things like diabetes, hypertension and, yes, heart disease.

We don’t get to say whether we die in earthquakes or plane crashes or random acts of violence; it would be nice, but nobody who doesn’t commit suicide gets to choose how and when they die. But what humans do get to do is to make wise choices about their lifestyles in the hopes that they can live a bit longer than they would otherwise. That means choosing to eat right and exercise and cut down on things like smoking and drinking. In the end, nobody will ever beat death, but we can try to outrun him for a long time.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

(Photo: Siri Stafford/Getty Images)

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