African Americans disproportionately affected by heart failure

Louisville heart failure patients tend to be younger and female — not the older men you may assume.

The stereotype of the heart failure patient often does not match the reality, according to Kelly C. McCants, M.D., medical director, Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program.

Historically, health trend data has suggested “that heart failure most impacts an older white male, 65 and up, who comes in after a heart attack. Today, what we’re finding in Louisville and surrounding areas is a patient population that is younger and predominantly female,” Dr. McCants said.

Heart failure has been increasing in the United States, with African Americans disproportionately affected.

The number of African Americans under 40 with heart failure in Louisville has grown significantly. This holds true in most metropolitan areas with populations over 1 million, according to Dr. McCants.

More than 40% of all African Americans have some form of cardiovascular disease. High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and chronic kidney disease all contribute to the higher rate of heart failure among African Americans, with untreated high blood pressure acting as a key driver among younger heart failure patients.

READ MORE: Pastor F. Bruce Williams’ Heart Failure Recovery Story

Other causes of heart failure among younger adults are genetic factors, viral infections, drug or alcohol abuse, medical conditions including thyroid disease, and some medications used to treat cancer.

Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program

If you have been diagnosed with heart failure and any symptoms suddenly become worse or you develop a new symptom, it may mean that your heart failure is getting worse or not responding to treatment. The Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Advanced Heart Failure and Recovery Program has the latest monitoring and treatment options, and in some cases may be able to recover your heart function.
Learn more

Untreated high blood pressure in younger African Americans

Among African Americans under age 40 experiencing heart failure, 7 in 10 cases are attributed to untreated high blood pressure, according to Dr. McCants. He’s seen patients in their 20s who need heart transplants because they didn’t get proper medications in their teens. The specific link between high blood pressure and heart failure is not yet known.

One study found heart failure under age 50 was 20 times more frequent among African Americans than whites. Overall, the annual incidence of heart failure among African Americans is 50 percent higher. At the time of diagnosis, heart failure among African Americans is also more severe.

Two ways to prevent damage to your heart

Keep your blood pressure in check: If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s important to manage it with the help of a health care provider, according to Dr. McCants. What’s considered normal blood pressure? Know your numbers.

Don’t ignore the signs and symptoms of heart failure:

“Many people referred to our heart failure and recovery program come too late, when they are no longer a candidate to recover with medical therapy,” Dr. McCants said.

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