What is Cardiovascular Disease?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) refers to the illnesses affecting the heart as well as the circulation system. The diseases include heart disease, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, stroke, and atrial fibrillation. Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the most common diseases affecting the minority populations in the United States, primarily the African Americans (Albert, Slopen, & Williams, 2013). Care for individuals suffering from cardiovascular disease within a minority community has unique challenges based on the diversity in cultural values and beliefs, some of which underlie the increased risk for the disease.

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Recent research has revealed that major race-associated disparities are evident among the individuals affected and dying from coronary heart disease (CHD). It might be common knowledge that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the US, but most people do not know that the risks of the disease are higher for the African Americans. In fact, African Americans have continued to have the greatest disease burden of CHD compared to non-Hispanic Whites and even other minority groups in the country (Leigh, Alvarez, & Rodriguez, 2016). Regardless of the decrease in the mortality rate associated with the disease within the general population, African Americans continue to suffer and die from CHD.

The differences in the rates of CHD among the African Americans are connected to some specific cultural beliefs held by the members of the community that place them at risk of the disease. Research has focused on the risk factors associated with the diseases, including the internalized racial/ethnic discrimination (Albert, Slopen, & Williams, 2013). For African Americans, the discrimination has been internalized, affecting their faith in the health care system. These individuals are also less likely to seek medical attention for simple diseases and rarely seek preventive care. African Americans have lower rates of health lifestyles, including exposure to smoking and substance abuse, a situation that increases their risk of the disease, and others, including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and obesity.

The high mortality related to CHD among the African Americans is associated with the factors as they negatively affect the potential for effective treatment and management of the disease. The management of cardiovascular disease is most effective where there is adequate preventive care and in an environment of healthy lifestyle. In addition, treatment depends on adequate access to care, which is affected by the racial/ethnic discrimination and the lack of trust in the health care system. In fact, such factors make them to avoid seeking care even when they feel sick, resulting in the increased risk of death and high cost of care. The same aspect increases the risk of seeking care when the disease has progressed (Leigh, Alvarez, & Rodriguez, 2016). The reality reflects the need to look past the conventional risk factors of CHD to the cultural and psychosocial risks to have a better understanding and provide better interventions for the problem.

Management of cardiovascular diseases is a high-cost affair, especially when dealing with populations that lack health insurance. The process becomes more complicated by the inadequacy of access to preventive care, which increases the rate of those who seek health care in developing the disease and when it has progressed to later stages. Fewer resources would be used up on prevention since those at risk would be identified and given intervention before the disease develops (Leigh, Alvarez, & Rodriguez, 2016). On the contrary, and in relation to this population, many resources are used in treating and managing CHD and other related health conditions. The disease burden is not only borne by individuals but also the society in general, especially given that the majority of the affected individuals have inadequate health insurance cover.

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Albert, M.A., Slopen, N., and Williams, D.R. (2013). Cumulative psychological stress and cardiovascular disease risk: a focused review with consideration of black-white disparities. Curr Cardiovasc Risk Rep. 7(5), 318-325.

Leigh, J.A., Alvarez, M. and Rodriguez, C.J. (2016). Ethnic Minorities and Coronary Heart Disease: an Update and Future Directions, Curr Atheroscler Rep. 18(2): 9-16

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