Cardiovascular Risk in Midlife African American Women Participating in a Lifestyle Physical Activity Program

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the largest contributor to disparate morbidity and mortality in African American women.


The aims of this article are to describe in a cohort of sedentary, urban community-based midlife African American women eligible for a physical activity program their (1) CVD risk factors and (2) awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension and hypercholesterolemia.


Cross-sectional baseline findings on 297 women were examined at baseline of a controlled physical activity clinical trial. Cardiovascular disease risks included hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, smoking, diabetes, and obesity. Among women with hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, rates of awareness, treatment, and control were calculated.


Our sample had significantly more hypertension and obesity than reported in other national samples of African American women. The women mirrored national samples of African American women: fewer than 60% had adequate control of hypertension. Versus national samples of African Americans (men/women combined), our study groups both showed significantly lower low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol level: treatment, 33% versus 63.8%, and control, 24.8% versus 45.3%.


Because national samples are more heterogeneous, our sample provides important information about CVD risks in inactive, urban community-dwelling, midlife African American women. Given the opportunity, many such women at elevated risk for CVD are willing to participate in a physical activity intervention. They must be identified and offered pharmacological and lifestyle interventions.

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