Take charge of your heart health and dramatically lower your personal risks. (Photo: Getty Images)

Take charge of your heart health and dramatically lower your personal risks. (Photo: Getty Images)

Eating right, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight are still the best ways to add years to your life, but a new study suggests that black women should take extra care to avoid factors that contribute to heart disease.

After reviewing information on more than 14,000 women who had their health monitored for 13 years, scientists from a team at Stanford University reported  that black women might have a higher risk of developing heart disease, even when they do not have metabolic syndrome.  A person has metabolic syndrome when they have a group of conditions including hypertension, high cholesterol, excess fat in the abdomen and high blood sugar.

The research team found that for black women, just having two of these risk factors, such as being overweight or obese, and having high cholesterol, equals double the normal risk of having heart disease. White women who were overweight or obese did not have a higher risk unless they had complete metabolic syndrome.

Beating Our No. 1 Health Risk

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all women, but we must be especially vigilant and gentle with ourselves when it comes heart health because we have a higher  mortality risk from from the condition than all groups of women and black men. In addition, 49 percent of black women, age 20 and older, have some form of heart disease.

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about women and heart disease,” Robert Eckel, M.D., a professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine, said in an interview about the study. Dr. Eckel explains that culture, race, environment and genetics can all contribute to heart disease.

Even when faced with daunting statistics like these, it pays to remember that you can take charge of your heart health and dramatically lower your personal risks. Follow these 10 Tips for a Healthy Heart, and take stock of your emotional health. Find ways to manage stress, free yourself from stereotypes that can make you sick, take care of yourself before you take care of everyone one else and cleanse toxic relationships from your life.

Surround yourself with positive, loving people, as well as opportunities to stay fit and eat right, and make sure your doctor works with you to help you stay in top shape. Your heart will thank you.


High-Heel Hazards

If you think you ought to be able to strut in 5-inche stilettos just because women everywhere seem to be wearing them these days, think again. Injuries from high heels have doubled since 2002, reports the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Time to invest in a cute pair of flats.