Cardiovascular Health in African Americans: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association

Circulation. 2017 Nov 21;136(21):e393-e423. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000534. Epub 2017 Oct 23.


Background and purpose: Population-wide reductions in cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality have not been shared equally by African Americans. The burden of cardiovascular disease in the African American community remains high and is a primary cause of disparities in life expectancy between African Americans and whites. The objectives of the present scientific statement are to describe cardiovascular health in African Americans and to highlight unique considerations for disease prevention and management.

Method: The primary sources of information were identified with PubMed/Medline and online sources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Results: The higher prevalence of traditional cardiovascular risk factors (eg, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obesity, and atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk) underlies the relatively earlier age of onset of cardiovascular diseases among African Americans. Hypertension in particular is highly prevalent among African Americans and contributes directly to the notable disparities in stroke, heart failure, and peripheral artery disease among African Americans. Despite the availability of effective pharmacotherapies and indications for some tailored pharmacotherapies for African Americans (eg, heart failure medications), disease management is less effective among African Americans, yielding higher mortality. Explanations for these persistent disparities in cardiovascular disease are multifactorial and span from the individual level to the social environment.

Conclusions: The strategies needed to promote equity in the cardiovascular health of African Americans require input from a broad set of stakeholders, including clinicians and researchers from across multiple disciplines.

Keywords: AHA Scientific Statements; African Americans; cardiovascular diseases; disease management; prevention and control; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • American Heart Association*
  • Black or African American* / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / ethnology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy
  • Comorbidity
  • Diabetes Mellitus / ethnology
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / ethnology
  • Incidence
  • Life Style / ethnology
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Preventive Health Services
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • United States / epidemiology