Researchers have identified three areas of concern among several key risk factors contributing to the higher prevalence of heart disease among African-Americans, according to a recent report published in Preventive Medicine's May 2015 issue.
The report cited Jackson Heart Study (JHS) research that measured "life's simple seven" (LSS), a list of behaviors and health factors impacting the potential development of cardiovascular disease. These factors - body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, total cholesterol, fasting plasma glucose, smoking, exercise, and diet - were assessed in African-Americans over a 13-year-period.
Dr. Adolfo Correa, interim director of the Jackson Heart Study (JHS) and a professor of medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, co-authored the article that relied on LSS data collected from the 4,132 African-American participants in the Jackson metro area.
The seven metrics were collected over three separate visits with participants and were used to rank heart health levels as either poor, intermediate or ideal.
While surveys on these metrics have been conducted in the past, the JHS study is one that focused solely on African-Americans.
"What's different here is the lower prevalence of ideal levels for blood pressure, body mass index and fasting glucose," said Correa, comparing JHS figures with national LSS rates based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
Correa said those three particular LSS measurements didn't appear to improve over the period of the study.
The findings from this large group, called a cohort, were then used to determine which LSS markers were more common among African-Americans that could explain this group's higher risk for heart disease.
Correa said positive findings coming from the study included the low amount of current smokers compared to national figures - 11.9% in the JHS group compared to 24.5% in the NHANES information - as well as an increase in physical activity over the years of the study.
"Contributors to the disparity in cardiovascular disease risk factors and outcomes in African-Americans compared to other ethnic groups include awareness, access to health care, socioeconomic status, living environments such as lack of easy access for exercise and healthy foods, and education status," said Dr. Ervin Fox, UMMC professor of medicine and JHS senior investigator.
Fox and fellow JHS investigator, Dr. Amir Azeem, say ways to improve LSS include exercising 150 minutes each week or a regimen of 10,000 steps a day; maintaining a healthy diet low in fat, high in fiber and substituting red meat for poultry and fish; seeing a medical doctor once a year; and keeping a check on blood pressure.
The Jackson Heart Study is a population-based longitudinal study conducted through a collaboration between UMMC, Jackson State University, Tougaloo College and the National Institutes of Health to discover and test best practices for eliminating health disparities in cardiovascular health.