Monday, May 3, 2010

Advance Notice

Death rates from heart disease in the United States have fallen 66 percent over the last 60 years — a remarkable drop that happened so gradually, many of us aren’t even aware. But not everyone has benefited equally. White men saw a 65 percent drop since 1950; African-American men, just 50 percent. For black men in Mississippi, there have been no improvements at all in the last 30 years. Several studies, including a long-term project in Mississippi called the Jackson Heart Study, are trying to understand why blacks lag behind, said Dr. Herman A. Taylor Jr., who is leading the Jackson study. Researchers do have a good idea of what keeps hearts strong, no matter the ethnicity. ‘The best way to treat this disease is to never get it,’ said Dr. Clyde W. Yancy, president of the American Heart Association. The vast majority of people can avoid heart disease by taking good care of themselves — by controlling their weight and blood pressure, exercising regularly, not smoking, and eating a healthy diet, he said. As Patricia Benson [a surgical technician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital ] knows, though, that can be harder than it seems. mBenson, who is African-American, had a heart attack scare at 55, just a few months after being diagnosed with diabetes. She wishes she made more of an effort to exercise, for instance, though she is on her feet all day at work in the operating room. Taylor said he thinks that exercise, diet, and obesity are key contributors to heart disease among Jackson’s African-American population. Only 20 percent of the participants in his study get to the gym regularly, and 30 percent say they never work up a sweat in a typical week...

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