Black adults face increased risk for heart disease

Amanda Aguilar Image
Saturday, February 25, 2023
Black adults face increased risk for heart disease
In Health Watch, federal data shows Black adults are at an increased risk for heart disease.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In Health Watch, federal data shows Black adults are at an increased risk for heart disease.

June Boyce is about to reach 22 years since her surgery.

The 62-year-old Clovis woman was born with a heart condition called Mitral valve prolapse, which doesn't allow her heart to efficiently pump blood and can cause a heart murmur.

Boyce, like most patients with the condition, never experienced symptoms.

She said she got tired easily, but this still didn't ring any alarms for her -- even though her doctor urged her to get an exam.

It wasn't until her 30-year-old brother passed in October of 2000 that she took action.

"My brother, the reason he died, because we didn't know that the heart disease ran in our family," she shared.

Boyce then went to the doctor and learned her heart valve wasn't closing, and got a surgery in 2001 to repair it.

She's been feeling better than ever since then.

"Sometimes in the African American community, we don't take what the doctors say seriously, and we don't follow up and do what we can do to help our situations," Boyce said.

According to a Fresno Kaiser Permanente doctor, many Black adults are living with heart conditions - like high blood pressure or diabetes - and they don't even know it.

If not addressed, it can lead to heart disease.

"The social determinants are a major part of this, because folks like me, coming up, did not have access to doctors or clinics or any preventive health care," said Dr. Toussaint Streat. "As a result, I'm now in my clinic seeing the results of that over the last 50 to 60 years."

Dr. Streat said he's trying to ease the mistrust between Black patients and the healthcare system.

"I think it is really important for physicians, first and foremost, to listen to their patients to invite them into the space and say, 'Okay, how can I help you? What would you like to do today,'" he said.

Dr. Streat is also educating patients to be proactive about their health by eating nutritious foods and working out.

Meanwhile, Boyce is sharing her family's medical history with loved ones who follow after her so they know they're at higher risk for heart problems.

"Choose to do those things to help you stay alive," she said.

Kaiser Permanente recently released a study that shows its lifestyle coaching program leads to long-term benefits in adults with hypertension.