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Heart health and people of color

While heart disease can impact anyone, statistics show a disproportionate number of heart disease deaths occur among people of color.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — February is Heart Health Month, and statistics show heart disease is far and away the number one cause of death in the United States. It outpaces cancer and COVID-19. We're talking somewhere in the neighborhood of 655,000 Americans die of heart disease each year. 

While heart disease can impact anyone, statistics show a disproportionate number of heart disease deaths occur among people of color. Black people, for example, are 21% more likely than white people to die of heart disease. That fact poses a number of questions, among them: Why is the death rate higher among Black people, and what is being done to improve the heart health of Black Americans? 

UCare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Julia Joseph Di-Caprio stopped by KARE 11 News at 4 to talk about this concerning issue. 

A growing body of research shows that social drivers of health, the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age play a significant role in whether heart disease takes hold. 

In one study, researchers followed more than 22,000 people over 10 years and found that people dealing with social drivers like social isolation, poverty, poor access to health care, and lower education were at increased risk of dying from heart disease than others, even when the more traditional causes of heart disease like having high blood pressure were taken into account.

UCare CEO Mark Traynor has joined with 30 other Minnesota health care organization CEOs in a commitment to knocking down those systemic barriers, and to:

  • understand different experiences to improve culturally responsive care
  • eliminate decisions that negatively impact underrepresented and underserved individuals
  • improve access to health care services
  • work with policymakers, employers and community advocates to remove economic barriers to health equity, among many other actions.