Health Conditions / Cardiovascular Health / Hypertension

Here’s Why Black People Are Disproportionately Impacted by Heart Failure

Here’s Why Black People Are Disproportionately Impacted by Heart Failure

Because of this, race itself isn’t the end all be all when it comes to heart failure risk. It is in no way as simple as “heart failure is passed on genetically in certain groups,” says Dr. Morris. Here’s why: Since some genetic mutations that are linked to heart failure—such as transthyretin amyloidosis, which can cause a buildup of proteins in the body that can lead to heart failure—are most commonly found in people of African ancestry, it follows that this mutation may be more prevalent in people who self-identify as Black, she explains. But there are many other complex factors at play, including generations of social dynamics, like racism and segregation. “As an African American, I am more likely to have inherited certain traits,” Dr. Morris explains, but that is, in part, because society “kept races apart from each other—intentionally.”There are also “traditional” risk factors to consider.“Traditional” risk factors refer to the more common things we know contribute to the risk of heart failure, thanks to evidence gathered in research, says Dr. Khan. For example, we know that high blood pressure is a key risk factor for heart failure—your heart has to work harder if your blood pressure is high, which can stiffen it or weaken it over time, according to the Mayo Clinic. And about 55% of Black Americans have high blood pressure, per the American Heart Association (AHA).Other conditions and risk factors that fall into this category include having type 2 diabetes; carrying extra weight; not eating enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; and being sedentary. These factors can help your doctor evaluate whether you’re at an increased risk of heart failure, Dr. Khan says. And nearly all of them also disproportionately affect communities of color, per the AHA.Of course, there isn’t a simple explanation as to why high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, for example, are so prevalent in Black communities. “It’s very hard to separate the reasons out because they are very interconnected,” says Dr. Khan. Again, some of it may come down to genetics. Additionally, these so-called traditional risk factors are prevalent in communities of color because of societal factors.Social determinants of health are a big deal.The term social determinants of health refers to “the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks,” per the US Department of Health and Human Services.Social determinants of health include things like someone’s financial stability, their access to and quality of health care, their ability to find nutritious foods and exercise opportunities in their community, as well as the likelihood of facing racism, discrimination, and violence in their everyday life. In a 2022 paper coauthored by Dr. Khan and published in Clinical Cardiology, researchers note that a variety of social determinants of health have been associated with heart failure risk, including things like a lack of quality education, living in a low-income household or community, living in a region with a poor public health infrastructure, and a lack of health insurance, among others.2

Dr. Dre Says His Doctors Didn’t Think He Would Survive His Brain Aneurysm in 2021

Dr. Dre Says His Doctors Didn’t Think He Would Survive His Brain Aneurysm in 2021

Andre Romelle Young, better known as Dr. Dre, revealed that his doctors feared he wouldn’t survive the brain aneurysm he was diagnosed with in January 2021. In a recent interview clip shared on Diverse Mentality’s Instagram, the 57-year-old rapper and producer shared more about his experience, explaining he didn’t know how serious it was until after the fact.“I’m at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, and they weren’t allowing anybody to come up, meaning visitors or family or anything like that, because of COVID,” Dr. Dre said. “But they allowed my family to come in. I found out later they called them up so they could say their last goodbyes because they thought I was out of here.”Instagram contentThis content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.He went on to share what his recovery process was like, explaining: “I was in the ICU for two weeks because of what was going on in my brain. They had to wake me up every hour on the hour for two weeks to do these tests, [which were] basically sobriety tests—touch your nose, rub your heel on your calf. So every hour for two weeks I had to wake up and do that.” The testing routine to monitor his recovery was exhausting. “As soon as they leave, I would try to go to sleep because I knew they were coming back in the next hour,” Dr. Dre said. He also didn’t eat regularly for two weeks during this time, adding, “I was hungry.”His family and his medical team never told him the reason he was allowed to have visitors. “I didn’t know it was that serious. Seeing my mom and sister, everybody coming in the room—nobody told me. I had no idea,” Dr. Dre said. In fact, he was thinking of home while in the hospital. “I never felt like I was in trouble,” he said. “I felt like I’m just going through procedure, and I’m ready to go home.”

Here’s Why It Might Feel Like Your Heart Is Racing Super Fast

Here’s Why It Might Feel Like Your Heart Is Racing Super Fast

Sprinting through the final minutes of your run, the stressful seconds leading up to a big presentation, or watching Stranger Things alone in the dark: These are all times when you might feel like your heart rate won’t go down. But just going about your daily life shouldn’t lead to a racing heartbeat. Typically, your heart is part of a fine-tuned system that keeps the essential organ beating at a certain rhythm. So when the beats unexpectedly speed up, it’s understandable to feel concerned that something more serious might be happening to you.Your heart performs an incredible daily balancing act that’s crucial to keeping you alive and healthy. “The heart beats because of electricity,” Shephal Doshi, MD, director of cardiac electrophysiology at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF. No, not the type that keeps your lights on, although that would be interesting. Instead, these are electrical impulses from a group of cells in your heart’s right atrium (chamber) that act like your own internal pacemaker. These cells, known as your sinoatrial (SA) node, tell your heart when and how to beat in order to send oxygen-rich blood throughout your body.Sometimes, your body can signal your heart to beat faster, and the SA node responds. Other times, signals start coming from other parts of the heart, causing it to speed up. Whatever the reason, a racing heart rate, or heart palpitations, can make you feel anxious, among other unpleasant symptoms.A racing heart rate has many potential causes, very few of which signal something life-threatening like a heart attack or heart failure. What is important, however, is how your racing heart makes you feel and how often this switch in pace happens. Here are the most common reasons it feels like your heart rate won’t go down—and when you should consider seeing a doctor.What is a “healthy” resting heart rate? | Common causes of a fast heart rate | When to see a doctorFirst, how do experts typically define a “healthy” heart rate?A “normal” or healthy resting heart rate for most adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Between these rates, your heart can pump the oxygen-rich blood it needs to your vital organs. If you’re very physically active—say, you’re an avid runner—you may find your resting heart rate is much lower (sometimes as low as 40 beats per minute). This is because exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, helps your heart work more efficiently, meaning it can squeeze out more blood at a slower rate, per the Mayo Clinic.A resting heart rate that’s consistently higher than 100 beats per minute or lower than 60 beats per minute (if you’re not an athlete) can signal an underlying health issue, according to the Mayo Clinic.Back to topWhat are the most common causes of a fast heart rate?Normally, your body’s systems run on autopilot, thanks to your autonomic nervous system, which regulates all the vital functions you don’t really need to think about. “This includes things like your heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, urination, and various gastrointestinal functions,” Brent Goodman, MD, a board-certified neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, tells SELF.Sometimes, though, certain lifestyle habits, situations, or even health conditions can cause your heart to start beating very rapidly or irregularly. Here are a few common culprits to keep on your radar.1. You’re feeling very stressed.Let’s be real: With everything going on in the world, there’s an extremely good chance you’re stressed right now. When you encounter something stressful, your body releases a surge of norepinephrine, also known as adrenaline, Camille Frazier-Mills, MD, a cardiologist at Duke Electrophysiology Clinic, tells SELF. Receptors in your heart respond to this trigger and can make your heart rate pick up.1If you can’t immediately solve whatever’s making you stressed (which is hard to do on a good day, let alone in the chaotic reality we live in), try deep breathing exercises to at least help you feel better in the moment. The Mayo Clinic suggests taking deep breaths through your nose so that you feel your stomach rise instead of your chest, and exhaling through your nose as well. Focus on your breath and the rise and fall of your abdomen throughout. (If you’re looking for a more detailed exercise to try, check out these relaxing deep breathing videos.)2. You’ve had a lot of caffeine.While most people can handle a certain level of caffeine just fine, overdoing it can make your heart rate speed up. “A bunch of patients come to see me with an elevated heart rate, then they tell me they drink multiple highly caffeinated beverages daily,” Dr. Mills-Frazier says. “They’re revving themselves up.” This is most likely to happen if you’ve had too much caffeine, but it could also happen in response to small amounts if you’re just sensitive to this stimulant.According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s technically safe for adults to have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, or around the amount in four or five cups of coffee. If that sounds like a lot to you, it may be, since there is a wide range in how sensitive certain people are to the effects of caffeine and in how fast it gets broken down in the body. Certain medications and health conditions may also make you more sensitive to caffeine, including being pregnant. Try cutting back on caffeine gradually to see if it reduces your racing heart (just don’t try to cut it out cold turkey if you rather not deal with the unpleasant side effects of caffeine withdrawal). If that doesn’t help, get in touch with your doctor.3. You smoke.Smokers (tobacco, cannabis, marijuana, you name it) tend to have higher resting heart rates than those who don’t smoke, according to a 2015 study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics. Although doctors don’t exactly know why this happens, an increase in heart rate from smoking could come with other cardiovascular complications, including a heart attack.24. You have cold- or flu-like symptoms, like a fever.If your pounding heart is accompanied by typical cold- or flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, coughing, and sneezing, a viral illness might be the likely culprit. Battling any type of infection requires your body to work harder than usual, and that includes making your heart beat faster in order to fight for homeostasis (its usual stable condition) and kick the infection to the curb, Dr. Mills-Frazier says.

I Was Diagnosed With Heart Failure at 26. Here’s the First Symptom I Experienced.

I Was Diagnosed With Heart Failure at 26. Here’s the First Symptom I Experienced.

Tiara Johnson, 32, was diagnosed with heart failure when she was just 26 years old. At first, her doctors wrote off her symptoms and told her it was nothing to worry about.Those symptoms—high blood pressure, shortness of breath, and fatigue—set in toward the end of her pregnancy. She was put on blood pressure medication and sent home after her daughter was born. When she went back to the hospital with persistent symptoms, she was told they were normal for someone who was postpartum. So Johnson just kept pushing through, hoping things would improve with time.Instead, everything just got worse. After passing out in the parking lot at work and being sent to the ER, she learned the true cause of her symptoms: end-stage congestive heart failure. Here’s her story, as told to health writer Korin Miller.It all started at the end of my pregnancy with my second child. I had a completely normal experience—until the last week. My blood pressure skyrocketed out of nowhere and my fingers became so puffy that I couldn’t wear my wedding ring. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia, a serious complication of pregnancy that causes high blood pressure and signs of liver or kidney damage; I was given medication to control hypertension—it didn’t work. A few days later, my doctor decided to induce me, but during labor I felt like something still wasn’t right and I couldn’t catch my breath properly. I expressed my concerns to the medical staff, but I was repeatedly told that everything was fine. So I assumed I was just overreacting, even though I truly felt like something was off.I had my daughter on July 31, 2015. When we went home, I still felt like I couldn’t breathe and it didn’t get better when I laid down or sat up. A few days later, I was in the shower and I felt like I was drowning, so I went back to the hospital. There, I was told I was fine and that this was a normal feeling after you have a baby due to fluid buildup in the body.I felt a little bit better when I went home, but I kept dealing with shortness of breath. I couldn’t lift my baby, I felt exhausted all the time, and I was sleeping a lot. I couldn’t walk for any long periods of time. But, because I was told that this was normal, I just dealt with it.Things changed on October 9, 2015. I passed out in the parking lot where I worked and was sent in an ambulance to a different hospital’s ER. There, I was given a series of tests and finally found out why I had been feeling unwell for the past three months: I had congestive heart failure and it was end-stage, meaning my heart was barely functioning. In fact, it was functioning at just 10% of its normal capacity.

12 Things That Could Increase Your Heart Failure Risk

12 Things That Could Increase Your Heart Failure Risk

Heart failure is one of those conditions that you rarely (or ever) think about—until it personally affects you. Maybe someone you love was recently diagnosed with heart failure or your doctor warned you about it during a recent physical. Whatever the reason is for it to be on your radar, heart failure sounds pretty scary. You might think it means that your heart suddenly stops working, but heart failure is actually a gradual process in which your heart doesn’t work as efficiently as it should, and it affects roughly 6.2 million people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Here’s everything you need to know about this condition, including what causes heart failure in the first place.What is heart failure? | What are the risk factors for heart failure? | Who is at risk for heart failure? | What are the heart failure stages?What is heart failure?Your heart is tasked with a big job: pumping oxygen and nutrients to all of your organs. Heart failure happens when your heart muscle can’t keep up with the demands of its role, and the rest of the body starts failing, Tariq Ahmad, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine at Yale Medical School and medical director of advanced heart failure at Yale Medicine, tells SELF.Heart failure can involve the left, right, or both sides of a person’s heart. Left-sided heart failure happens when things go wrong in the left ventricle, which is the muscle’s main pumping chamber. There are two types of left-sided heart failure: systolic heart failure, which means the left ventricle can’t push blood out very well, and diastolic heart failure, which is when the heart is stiff so it can’t relax and fill with enough blood in between beats, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). When blood doesn’t pump in and out of the heart effectively enough, “congestion” can happen. (That’s why heart failure is also sometimes called congestive heart failure.)Right-sided heart failure usually occurs as the result of left-sided heart failure. When both sides are affected the condition is called biventricular heart failure. That said, right-sided heart failure can happen on its own if you have a condition that affects the lungs, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which causes lung damage.1As the heart gets weaker, people who have developed heart failure may experience the following symptoms, per the National Library of Medicine (NLM):Swelling in your feet, ankles, legs, or abdomen: This can happen because poor circulation causes water and other fluids to build up in the body.Wheezing or coughing: Fluid may build up in the lungs when the heart doesn’t contract properly, causing coughing fits.Shortness of breath: You may be huffing and puffing more than usual when doing everyday activities like walking. This can result from fluid build-up in the lungs or from a lack of oxygen-filled blood.General fatigue: Being robbed of oxygen can really deplete your body.2 “It’s like going from an 800-horsepower engine to one with 100 horsepower,” Dr. Ahmad says.Because heart failure can affect different parts of the heart, symptoms may vary from person to person. Some people might not have any symptoms at all. Heart failure happens in stages, so symptoms can change or worsen over time, according to the Cleveland Clinic.Back to topWhat are the main causes and risk factors of heart failure?Heart failure can happen any time the heart is severely strained or damaged. And that can happen in numerous ways:Coronary artery diseaseThis is the most common form of heart disease, and it occurs when cholesterol, which is a type of fat, builds up in the arteries. As cholesterol continues to accumulate, the coronary arteries narrow and start to inhibit blood flow, according to the CDC.DiabetesDiabetes happens when a person’s blood-glucose (or sugar) levels are higher than the recommended range. This occurs when your body doesn’t make enough insulin (a hormone that regulates blood sugar) or when your body can’t use the hormone efficiently, according to the CDC. Over time, high blood sugar can lead to complications such as high blood pressure and heart disease.High blood pressureMedically known as hypertension, high blood pressure is used to describe the force of blood against artery walls. Hypertension is one of the most common causes of heart failure because it makes the heart work so much harder than it should need to, according to the NLM.Heart attackA heart attack occurs when the heart doesn’t get enough blood or oxygen. “The heart muscle needs oxygen to live,” Dr. Ahmad explains. “If the heart doesn’t get that blood flow, the muscle will die and it won’t be able to come back.” After a heart attack, some people’s hearts may be working at a reduced capacity, which can lead to heart failure.Congenital heart defects (CHD)Sometimes, a person’s heart doesn’t develop properly before birth, resulting in a congenital heart defect, according to the CDC. There are numerous types of CHD, and some may be minor, while others can negatively affect blood flow.InfectionsThe immune system fends off viruses by triggering inflammation throughout the body. In rare cases, that inflammation can damage the heart, according to the Mayo Clinic. This is called myocarditis, and it most often leads to left-sided heart failure.Infection can also affect the heart more directly. For example, bacterial infections may cause germs to stick to and ultimately damage the heart valve, which is known as endocarditis, according to the Mayo Clinic. Generally, this happens when people already have heart damage.Heart valve diseaseSometimes, the heart valves have a hard time opening and closing. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as being born with a heart defect or getting a severe infection like the flu, which can lead to heart inflammation.ArrhythmiasAbnormal heart rhythms, medically known as arrhythmias, simply mean the heart beats very quickly or slowly at rest. According to the Mayo Clinic, a fast resting heart rate is defined as greater than 100 beats per minute, while a slow resting heart rate is below 60 beats per minute. Everyone experiences a fast or slow heart rate at some point. For example, heart rate generally declines during sleep. But sudden consistent changes in heart rate can indicate an underlying issue, like diabetes or coronary artery disease, which can potentially cause arrhythmias.Sleep apneaSleep apnea (when you stop breathing periodically throughout the night) deprives the body of oxygen, which can eventually lead to heart failure, according to the NHLBI. There are three types of sleep apnea, and they can all contribute to developing high blood pressure and structural heart changes due to oxygen deprivation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Sleep apnea can often cause right-sided heart failure, but it can worsen left-sided heart failure as well.Metabolic SyndromeMetabolic syndrome refers to several conditions, including high blood pressure, excess body fat around your stomach, elevated blood sugar, high triglycerides (a fat found in the blood), and low HDL cholesterol levels. Together, these issues can increase your risk of developing medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, according to the NHLBI.Peripartum cardiomyopathyAlso known as postpartum cardiomyopathy, this is a rare form of heart failure that can impact people who are pregnant during their last month of pregnancy and up to several months after giving birth, according to the American Heart Association. The heart chambers get bigger and the heart gets weaker, decreasing blood flow and oxygen to other organs. People with elevated blood pressure, Black people, and people who are medically considered overweight have a higher risk of developing this form of heart failure.MedicationsCertain medications can potentially damage the heart muscle, Sanjiv J. Shah, MD, director of the Heart Failure with Preserved Ejection Fraction Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells SELF. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, can cause water retention, which interferes with blood flow, increasing your risk of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. Even certain meds to treat high blood pressure can actually increase the risk of heart failure, as can some chemotherapy drugs. Talk to your doctor to understand the risks versus the benefits of taking these medications.

10 Symptoms of Heart Failure That Can Be Easy to Miss

10 Symptoms of Heart Failure That Can Be Easy to Miss

The fluid build-up can also cause swelling in your abdomen, which Dr. Solanki says is usually a sign that the right side of your heart is having trouble.5. Nausea and lack of appetiteWhen your abdomen gets swollen from excess fluid, it makes it tough to have much of an appetite. “Many people with this heart failure symptom are not able to eat much and may have nausea,” Dr. Wald says.6. A rapid or irregular heartbeatAs heart failure progresses, the organ often tries to overcompensate by beating faster to increase circulation in the rest of your body. “People may start feeling heart palpitations or irregular beats,” Dr. Solanki confirms.7. Constant coughing or wheezingThis is also due to fluid and blood build-up in your lungs, Dr. Solanki says. Coughing up pink-hued mucus due to blood, in particular, is often a sign that your heart failure has progressed to a more severe, advanced stage.28. Very fast, unexplained weight gainHere’s yet another sign of fluid build-up in your body. “If you see more than a two-pound weight gain in a 24-hour period, that’s a potential sign of an acute heart failure issue,” Jennifer Wong, M.D., cardiologist and medical director of Non-Invasive Cardiology at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, tells SELF.9. Difficulty concentrating or decreased alertnessPeople with severe heart failure may not be receiving enough blood flow to the brain, Dr. Wald says. As a result, your brain doesn’t get the sufficient oxygen it needs to function well, leading to problems with staying alert and focused. At this point, you may have low levels of sodium in your blood, and that can lead to confusion in some people, per the AHA.10. Chest pain“When your heart is pumping rapidly, but your upper-body circulation is not able to keep up, you can start developing chest pains,” Dr. Solanki says. What that pain feels like varies from person to person, but it can range from mild discomfort to a squeezing sensation to sharp, burning pain. Chest pain can also signal coronary artery disease linked to heart failure, a condition in which your arteries become very narrow or completely blocked, often leading to a heart attack, per the CDC.Back to topHow to use “FACES” to remember the symptoms of heart failureFACES is an easy mnemonic device and a quick way to remember some of the most common signs of heart failure:3FatigueActivities limitedChest congestionEdema or ankle swellingShortness of breathBack to topHow is heart failure diagnosed?First, your doctor will go through your medical history to identify any potential heart failure risk factors. Then, they’ll do a physical exam to listen to your lungs for signs of fluid build-up and your heart for specific noises that can be indicative of heart failure.After that, there are a slew of potential tests your doctor may recommend if they suspect you have heart failure symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic:

The Early Stages of Heart Failure Can Be Surprisingly Easy to Miss

The Early Stages of Heart Failure Can Be Surprisingly Easy to Miss

Getting short of breath when exercisingHaving problems performing any kind of physical activityExperiencing swelling, also called edema, especially in their lower legsSome people with vaginas may also have symptoms that seem like an upper respiratory infection, such as wheezing, coughing, or being short of breath—so you may think these are symptoms of something like bronchitis when they’re actually heart failure symptoms. That’s why it’s important to reach out to a doctor if you find yourself out of breath frequently when doing things like walking up the stairs or on a short stroll to the mailbox.Heart failure complicationsHeart failure is a known cause of illness and death in people assigned female at birth.1 It’s true that most people with vaginas tend to develop heart failure at an older age than people with penises, but even if you’re on the younger side there are risks.1 The biggest one is experiencing heart failure symptoms that you don’t recognize as such. If you don’t take steps to treat it, the heart failure can worsen and potentially cause things like heart valve problems and kidney damage, or become fatal if left ignored.Mental health is another aspect that you’ll want to address. People with vaginas and heart failure are more likely to experience higher rates of depression than people with penises and heart failure. They also typically report worse quality of life, according to an article in the journal Clinical Cardiology.3What are heart failure treatments by stage?Now for the good news: You can definitely make changes to both prevent heart failure and to keep it from progressing to advanced stages. The power is (at least partially) in your hands.“The habits you develop now will affect your heart 10, 20, or 30 years down the road,” Dr. Shufelt says. “Such habits include getting regular exercise, eating a Mediterranean-style diet, not smoking, and not being around people who smoke.”Your doctor will consider your heart failure stage or your personal risks—like having diabetes or smoking—to make treatment recommendations. If you know you’re in a certain stage, talk to your doctor about making the changes that make the most sense for you.It’s important to note that treatment guidelines are based on the ACC/AHA stages, as the NYHA system does not provide this information.4Stage AHere’s where you’ve really got to take a look at the lifestyle factors that could hurt your heart. According to Penn Medicine, this means:Stop smoking if you smoke.Engage in regular exercise—ideally 150 minutes per week.Stop illegal drug use if you use drugs.Stop drinking or limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day for people with penises or one drink a day for people with vaginas.Seek treatments for high blood pressure or high cholesterol.Take stock of other lifestyle behaviors and try to eat a balanced diet, get restful sleep, and manage everyday stress.Stage BWhen you’re in stage B, your heart is affected. That’s why doctors will usually prescribe medicines to help protect your heart. These include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs). Both of these medicine types help to relax veins and arteries, which is important because it helps get blood to all the various parts of your body. Think of it like this: You can move more water through a wider straw than a narrower one, and that’s exactly what these meds do for your blood.Stage CIf you reach stage C, your activity is likely limited by your heart failure symptoms, per Penn Medicine. You’ll usually get short of breath, cough, and may even have some swelling that keeps you from moving well. Your doctor may suggest the following treatment options:

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