As we celebrate both Heart Month and Black History Month this February, we’re reminded that heart disease affects African American women at higher rates than any other minority group. A new study suggests financial hardship may even further increase the risk of heart disease in African Americans.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, examined stress levels in more than 2,000 African American men and women over a 12-year period. Researchers found that the psychological stress of financial difficulties, combined with lifestyle habits and health conditions, may influence the development of heart disease. Though the participants didn’t show signs of heart disease at the start of the study, those who experienced mild financial stress were twice as likely to develop heart disease as participants unaffected by stress. Participants who reported moderate-to-high financial stress had nearly three times the risk of heart disease events, the study says.
“Stress is known to contribute to disease risk, but the data from our study suggest a possible relationship between financial stress and heart disease that clinicians should be aware of,” says senior author Cheryl R. Clark, MD, ScD, a hospitalist and researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “We need to know a lot more about how economic volatility and financial stress may be connected to heart disease.”
WomenHeart is committed to raising awareness about heart disease in diverse communities. This February, WomenHeart kicked off its fourth annual social media campaign, #29DaysOfHeart, to uplift the voices of African American women with heart disease and highlight their own heart journeys. From providing heart healthy recipes and stress management tutorials to sharing personal stories from heart disease survivors, each day of the #29DaysOfHeart campaign empowers African American women to take charge of their own health and speak up about their experiences with heart disease.
As part of the campaign, WomenHeart will also be hosting a Twitter Chat with heart health experts to raise awareness about heart disease in African American women. Featuring cardiologist Rachel M. Bond, MD, FACC, the #29DaysChat gives participants the opportunity to ask questions about heart health and discuss prevention strategies. The #29DaysChat goes live on Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. EST.