Young Black women at greater risk of heart disease, Emory study shows

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Study - Where you live could impact your risk for heart disease

Young Black women have health conditions that may put them at greater risk to develop heart disease, according to a study released Tuesday by a team of Emory University researchers.

The Emory team analyzed data from about 1,000 Black women of different age groups in the Atlanta area. The researchers partnered with large churches and civic organizations to find study participants. About 30% of the women studied had post-graduate degrees.

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The researchers found high rates of risk factors as early as their 20s. They found Black women younger than 40 were more likely to eat fast food and had above average salt intakes. The researchers also found higher blood pressure and body mass index rates among Black women they studied across all age ranges.

“It just reinforces the point that preventative cardiovascular disease care needs to implemented early in young Black women,” said Dr. Nishant Vatsa, an internal medicine resident at Emory University Hospital and the study’s lead author.

Slightly more than one in five American women die from heart disease. It is the leading cause of death for all women in the United States, federal data shows. Cancer is second at about 20% and chronic lower respiratory diseases are a distant third at about 6%.

The Emory researchers said the findings for younger Black women were particularly troubling since Georgia has among the worst maternal mortality rates in the nation. Black women in Georgia are three to four times more likely to die when they become mothers than white women, according to a bipartisan state study committee.

Georgia lawmakers passed legislation last year extending Medicaid for low-income mothers from two to six months postpartum in an effort to address the issue. Vice President Kamala Harris led a discussion highlighting the disparities that Black women face in maternal health last month.

ExploreWhat Black women in their 20s and 30s can do to prevent heart disease

The Emory researchers recommended solutions such offering telehealth and other health screening options earlier to Black women. Dr. Gina Price Lundberg, clinical director of Emory Women’s Heart Center, noted many women are reluctant to go to primary care physicians and be given prescriptions for blood pressure medicine, preferring more holistic treatment.

The Emory team also suggested communities provide more grocery stores and supermarkets that sell healthier foods and places for women to exercise, such as walking trails.