Black Women Face a Higher Risk of Developing Heart Disease at a Young Age

Young Black women have a number of risk factors that put them on a trajectory for developing heart disease at a young age, a study finds. These factors include a high prevalence of obesity, and elevated blood pressure. The findings were presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session (ACC.21).

“Young people should be the healthiest members of our population with normal body weight and normal blood pressure,” said Nishant Vatsa, MD, an internal medicine resident at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and the study’s lead author via a press release about the study. “We’re finding obesity and elevated blood pressure are present in women even at younger ages, which is worrisome. Thus, interventions like educating young women about healthy dietary choices and the benefits of exercise, improving access to health care and enhancing the ability for people to adopt healthy practices—such as increasing access to healthy foods and safe areas for physical activity—needs to start early.”

In this study, researchers analyzed 945 Black women enrolled in a community health screening project in Atlanta. Subsequently, they assessed health markers such as body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They also examined socioeconomic factors such as education, income and health insurance, as well as lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and exercise.

The results showed that the average BMI for women of all age groups was 30 or above, making them clinically obese. Moreover, the researchers observed that systolic blood increased with age among Black women ages 20-39,  with an average systolic BP of 122 mmHg, which is higher than normal.


“Diet and exercise play a major role in blood pressure and weight,” Dr. Vatsa said. “Primary care providers, prevention-based clinics and community organizations can facilitate interventions proven to mitigate these risk factors. Providers that treat young Black women need to be mindful of cardiovascular preventive care and be armed with resources and education.”