African Americans More At Risk For Heart Attack

We've talked about women being most at risk for heart disease and heart attacks but now a new study shows that African Americans are also at high risk for having a heart attack. A heart attack can be considered a circulation problem and occurs when the blood supply to the heart is either reduced or completely cut off.  This can occur because of a blood clot or a narrowing of the arteries.  When the heart muscle doesn’t receive blood, the lack of oxygen causes damage and it begins to die.


Heart attacks are most often caused by coronary artery disease.  This condition occurs when plaque builds up on the walls of blood vessels, causing a narrowing of the arteries and restriction in blood flow.  If the plaque bursts, then a blood clot can form in that location and potentially block blood flow through the vessel.

Risk factors for a heart attack include smoking, high blood pressure or cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes, age, family history and being male.  

Symptoms of a heart attack include discomfort (pressure, squeezing, fullness, pain) in chest, arm, shoulders or jaw, shortness of breath, sweating or loss of consciousness.  Keep in mind that symptoms for men and women can differ, with women typically experiencing more heartburn-like symptoms and abdominal pain.

This study was published in the journal, Circulation determined that African Americans have twice the rate of sudden cardiac arrest compared to Caucasians. The group was also 6 years younger on average. 

The researchers analyzed cardiac death data from the Oregon Sudden Unexpected Death Study from a total of 16 hospitals. They also worked with surrounding emergency-medical services providers and the hospitals to determine cardiac arrests that happened outside a hospital and were also able to analyze the patients' medical records prior to the heart attack.

Findings included:

  •  African-Americans were roughly six years younger than Caucasians when they suffered sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Cardiac-arrest incidence among African-American men was 175 per 100,000 people, whereas the incidence for Caucasian men was just 84 per 100,000. Incidence of cardiac arrest in African-American women was 90 per 100,000, as opposed to 40 per 100,000 in Caucasian women.
  • Roughly 52 percent of the African-American population suffering cardiac death had diabetes, whereas just 33 percent of Caucasian patients had the condition.
  • High blood pressure, chronic kidney problems and congestive heart failure also saw inflated numbers among African-American men and women.