Filed Under:  Health & Wellness, Medicine, News

Black cardiologists launch national campaign

27th February 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Tabachnik
Contributing Writer

February is Heart Health Month in the United States and a national campaign is spreading across the nation—but one that is not too familiar to most Americans.

The Heart Rhythm Society, in association with the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC), has launched a multi-year initiative called “Arrest the Risk” in an effort to elevate the issue of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).

Often confused with heart attacks, SCA occurs when the heart simply stops beating, as opposed to a blockage from a blood clot.

SCA is one of the leading causes of death in the United States each year, and approximately 95 percent of people who experience the condition die as a result.

Unknown to most Americans, SCA kills more than 1,000 people a day, or one person every 90 seconds—a number great than the number of deaths each year from breast cancer, lung cancer, stroke or AIDS.

This campaign is especially concerning to the people of New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole.

According to Dr. Keith Ferdinand, Chief Science Officer of the ABC and founder of Heartbeats Life Center, a cardiology clinic and human rights organization based in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, African Americans are at a much higher risk for SCA than Caucasians or Hispanics.

“This is not a unique or unusual condition,” Ferdinand said. “It is one of the greatest risks faced by Americans today.

“But only 18 percent of people know what it is.”

The Heart Rhythm Society has reported that 90 percent of African Americans say their doctor has not talked to them about their risk for SCA. African Americans also report fewer specialist visits in the past year, yet more often indicate events or factors that would encourage a doctor visit.

New Orleans is especially concerning, Dr. Ferdinand said, because of its “high adverse lifestyle.” Residents of the city eat a diet with high saturated fat and high sodium, have poor access to health care, as well as low rates of physical activity. In addition, New Orleans’ large Black population makes it a fertile ground for SCA.

The disparities occur across gender as well, Dr. Ferdinand said. More women die from heart disease than all other conditions combined, and women are 10 times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer.

“At first it was thought that only males got [SCA],” Ferdinand said. “There has been some degree of bias against women.”

To drive home the importance of treatment and prevention of SCA through grassroots efforts in at-risk communities, HRS has partnered with the Association of Black Cardiologists. The two organizations are working with healthcare providers and African-American community leaders in New Orleans and nine other cities with at-risk populations including Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; Baltimore; Washington, D.C., Jackson, Miss.; Nashville, Tenn.; Detroit; and Oakland, Calif.

In an effort to get the message out, the campaign is using print journalism outlets, public and cable television, as well as Emmy-award winning journalist Shaun Robinson.

Dr. Ferdinand and other cardiologists are also working with physicians at conferences and meetings across the United States, focusing especially on decreasing disparities among racial groups and those under-recognized within the general population.

“It is our goal to make sure that regardless of race, gender or ethnicity, people have a high awareness of SCA and the deaths it causes, and assist their physicians in getting appropriate tests.”

For more information about Sudden Cardiac Arrest and the Heart Rhythm Society, go to www.arresttherisk.org.

This article originally published in the February 18, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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