WASHINGTON -- The American Heart Association and members of the Congressional Black Caucus today released new research on stroke awareness among African-Americans and information on ways they can reduce their risk.
American Heart Association volunteer spokesperson Dr. Rani Whitfield, better known in his native Louisiana as “Tha Hip Hop Doc,” shared the results of a new survey on stroke awareness published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association and another commissioned by the association about the cardiovascular health of young Americans. The journal article found that while 89 percent of respondents in a predominantly African-American community in Washington, D.C. said they would call 911 during a stroke, only 12 percent of African-American stroke patients surveyed actually called 911 first. Instead, 75 percent called a relative or friend.
The survey commissioned by the association found that 43 percent of respondents age 18 – 24 are not personally concerned about any cardiovascular disease or condition, least of all stroke and about 20 percent age 18 – 44 engage in healthy behaviors. Only one-quarter of the young adults are concerned about high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol and just one-third know that race/ethnicity is also a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
The results demonstrate the disconnect between young people’s perception of their risk for stroke and the reality that African-Americans are nearly twice as likely to have a stroke compared to their white counterparts. “Most young people believe they don’t need to worry about stroke even when they have risk factors for the disease or are at risk for developing those risk factors,” Whitfield said.
“The surveys drive home why it is important for African-Americans of all ages to seek emergency care when they’re experiencing the symptoms of a stroke and to take steps to learn whether they are at risk for stroke,” Whitfield added. “The good news is that the Affordable Care Act gives consumers new assistance for knowing their risk and taking steps to reduce it by making preventive screenings and services more available and affordable.
Grammy-award winning R&B artist and Power to End Stroke national spokesperson Chrisette Michele spoke about why she has been motivated to take action to fight stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. “My mother is currently recovering from a stroke,” said Michele. “My maternal grandmother had a hole in her heart and several other heart problems because of the lack of record keeping in the black community so many years ago. They weren’t fully aware of their health history. It's important to keep health records and to know your family health history.”
The press briefing also marked the launch of the “31 Days of Power” campaign. Throughout the month of May, which is American Stroke Month, the American Heart Association, its partners, and volunteers will stage numerous events across the country to raise awareness among African-Americans about stroke, its risk factors and warning signs and treatment options. The campaign aims to motivate people, in particular African-Americans who are most affected by stroke and heart disease, to take their power back from these deadly diseases by becoming informed and proactively monitoring their health. For people who make healthy choices such as following a low fat diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, drinking alcohol in moderation and not smoking, the risk of stroke can be significantly reduced.
The American Heart Association’s goal is to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent by the year 2020. Every 40 seconds, someone in America has a stroke – the nation’s No. 3 killer and a leading cause of disability.
“The burden of stroke in America is staggering, particularly among people of color,” Whitfield noted. “We believe in empowerment via enfranchisement. Not only is awareness imperative but so is access to affordable, quality healthcare and preventive services. That is why the association supports the Affordable Care Act and believes we should be working to build on the law, not repeal or undermine it.”