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Heart disease is the #1 cause of death. And some of us are more at risk than others.



Learn why, and what you can do to care for your heart during these stressful times.

There’s no sugarcoating it: Heart disease remains the number one killer in New Jersey and nationwide. Despite having this unfortunate statistic in common, some ethnic and racial groups have more risks than others.

Here’s the good news: About 80% of heart diseases are preventable.

Read about the many factors that influence heart health—and what you can do to care for yours.

Breaking down heart disease risk factors

Heart health risks can be influenced by ethnicity, race, gender and many other factors, too, such as job and food insecurity, poor living conditions, and lack of access to transportation and high-quality health care. Many people of color are disproportionately affected by these factors, known as social determinants of health.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health:

  • African Americans are 30% more likely to die from heart disease than non-Hispanic whites.
  • High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Although African American adults are 40% more likely to have high blood pressure, they are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have their blood pressure under control.
  • African American women are nearly 60 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, as compared to non-Hispanic white women.
  • While there is a lower heart disease death rate for Hispanic adults compared to their white counterparts, stroke-related deaths are increasing among Hispanic adults, and heart failure death rates are accelerating among younger Hispanic adults, according to the Journal of the American Heart Association.

In addition to high blood pressure, key risk factors include high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and diabetes. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke than those without diabetes. Furthermore, the longer someone has diabetes, the more likely they are to have heart disease. 

The pandemic has worsened heart health risk

Heart attack rates were declining in years prior to the pandemic. However, multiple studies have shown an increase in heart disease deaths since the onset of COVID.

Data analyzed by Cedars-Sinai researchers revealed that heart attack deaths rose substantially during COVID surges. And according to research published in Circulation, heart disease deaths among Black, Hispanic and Asian populations have been disproportionately higher.

However, a large study based on COVID-infected Veterans Affairs patients, who are overwhelmingly white and male, showed that heart disease risk increased significantly in this group as well. According to Nature, the risk remained high for a minimum of a year after a bout of COVID, with patients being 72% more likely to have heart failure and 52% more likely to suffer from a stroke than not-infected individuals.

Experts believe these increases may be due to a number of factors, including the specific effects of COVID infections on the heart, people avoiding care during the pandemic because of fears of contracting COVID, overwhelmed health care facilities during the height of the pandemic, social determinants of health, and pandemic-related stressors.

Men and women can experience heart attacks differently

Heart disease is the leading cause of heart attacks. But men and women can experience heart attacks very differently.

While chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom in both genders, chest pain is not always severe or even the most noticeable symptom for some women. Learn more about the common heart attack symptoms for men and women.

Remember: 80% of heart diseases are preventable

Taking care of your heart means being good to yourself and embracing a healthy lifestyle. 

Quit smoking. One year of being smoke-free can cut your risk of heart disease by 50%. If you’ve never smoked, don’t start.

Set an exercise routine. Walking just 30 minutes a day can lower your risk of heart disease.

Maintain a healthy weight. Losing a few pounds if you’re overweight can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes.

Modify your diet. Eating healthy includes whole grains, a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and lean meats.

Manage your stress. If you’re feeling stressed, you might feel your muscles tighten. The same thing happens to your arteries, increasing your heart disease risk.

Drink alcohol in moderation. 

Keep up with your COVID vaccines and boosters. 

Everybody has a unique risk for heart disease. Schedule a visit with your doctor to learn more about protecting your heart health. Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey members can locate a doctor here.


Horizon Health News is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.