Mind Your Heart for National Minority Health Month

April is National Minority Health Month, a time to raise awareness of the important health issues disproportionately affecting BIPOC in the United States. While these issues are crucial year-round, we believe National Minority Health Month is a great opportunity to highlight the health issues that disproportionately affect Native Americans.

Heart disease has long been the leading cause of death for all Americans, yet the cases trend higher across many racial groups. In fact, heart disease rates are 50% higher amongst Native people – and 36% of Native cardiovascular patients die under the age of 65, compared to 31.5% in Blacks and 14.7% in non-Hispanic Whites.  

Heart disease can be triggered by diverse risk factors – many nutrition-related – including:  

  • Diabetes: Type 2 Diabetes is three times more likely to affect Native Americans than Whites.
  • Obesity: As many as 30-40% of Native people have obesity, and 15% struggle to meet physical activity requirements.
  • Tobacco Use: More than 30% of Native people use tobacco in some way, including for ceremonial use, a figure that is twice as high as the general population.

The reasons behind these kinds of health disparities are historically complex, often fused with social and political issues, and have gone unaddressed for too long. If you think about it, racial and ethnic health disparities like heart disease have little to do with the people themselves and more to do with social determinants of health – conditions in the environments where people are born, live and work – and they play a role in their quality of life. Most often, these conditions are largely out of their control.

For many Native people, geographical access to care facilities, language barriers, a lack of cultural representation in the healthcare profession, poverty, a negative history of past Western medical practices and outright discrimination all factor into social determinants of health.

So, when it comes to heart health, how do we overcome these socially pre-determined barriers? Communicating your awareness is key. Talk to your family, friends and loved ones about the risks, as well as what they can and should be doing to develop a heart-healthy routine.

The people at Health Net have provided this helpful infographic filled with some ways you can begin to control your risk of heart disease.

Visit Health Net’s Facebook page for more healthy facts. To learn more aboutNational Minority Health Month, visit the Office of Minority Health. To support our efforts with Tribal partners dedicated to improving the lives of Native Americans, visit our website or click here to donate.

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