Take Action for Health

Heart health: Learn

As you may know, heart disease is a serious health problem for all Americans, especially African Americans. Some people believe that a heart attack or stroke happens suddenly when a person is suddenly scared, upset, or angered. But while a heart attack or stroke may seem sudden, the truth is that heart disease builds up over many years and often starts at a young age.

Heart disease is complicated because there are many risk factors:

  • High Blood Pressure (hypertension): High blood pressure increases the heart's workload, causing the arteries to thicken and become stiffer.
  • Tobacco Smoke: Smokers' risk of developing coronary heart disease is 2-4 times that of nonsmokers.
  • High Cholesterol: As LDL (‘bad cholesterol’) rises, so does risk of coronary heart disease.
  • Physical Inactivity: An inactive lifestyle is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. 
  • Obesity and Overweight: People who have excess body fat — especially at the waist — are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

But high blood pressure is one of the biggest things that put you at risk. When your blood pressure is high, your heart has to work harder. High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because it has no symptoms. And, while no one is sure why, African Americans have one of the highest blood pressure rates in the world (43.0% of African American men and 45.7% of African American women have high blood pressure).

A blood pressure screening is a good way to start caring for your heart health. It’s quick, easy, and painless. A screening will tell you if you’re at risk for heart disease. It will let you know if you need to take steps to control your blood pressure so that you can lower your chances of a heart attack, stroke or worse.

Don’t wait to become sick. Early detection is the best way to avoid health problems and stay healthy. Whether you do it for yourself or for the ones you love, get screened. You’re worth it. Now, you’re ready to ACT.


Your mental health also affects your heart health. When you’ve finished the Heart Health section, be sure to complete the Emotional Well-Being section.


  • National Institutes of Health, Publication No. 08-5829 April 2008, On the Move to Better Heart Health for African Americans
  • Heart Disease Facts. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
  • High Blood Pressure Facts. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. November 30, 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm
  • National Urban League, Project Wellness, Chronic Health Diseases in the African American Community