How black cardiologists are combating a heart problem affecting millions

April 26, 2018, American Heart Association
How black cardiologists are combating a heart problem affecting millions
Credit: American Heart Association

Doctors and African-American communities are obligated to learn more about heart valve disease and the lifesaving procedures available to treat it, according to a report from the Association of Black Cardiologists.

"It is incumbent upon us as [to] do a better job educating our about heart ," said Dr. Aaron Horne Jr., an interventional cardiologist at Methodist Dallas Medical Center.

Horne co-chaired the Structural Heart Disease Committee of the Association of Black Cardiologists that last year released recommendations on how to address the disparities in care for minorities with heart valve disease. The organization now intends to team up with local doctors, barbers, clergy and health advocates in black communities to promote awareness of heart valve disease and its treatments when it rolls out an educational campaign in June.

Lionel Phillips, the organization's development officer, said the group will hold presentations and health fairs in six states, including California, Texas and Virginia. He said the cardiology association will tap into the informal health education network in those communities because, "for people to buy into a health message, they certainly have to hear it from people they trust."

Heart valve disease affects more than 5 million U.S. adults and kills an estimated 25,700 Americans each year.

One type of valve condition that usually develops later in life but can also occur at birth is aortic stenosis – a narrowing and stiffness in the aortic valve, a valve that controls the blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body, causing symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath and swelling in the ankles and feet.

Valve conditions can often be treated with medication. But sometimes the problem requires surgery to repair or replace a damaged valve. Options for replacing a valve include open-heart surgery and less invasive transcatheter procedures.

When it comes to treatment for heart valve disease, studies have found race-related differences. For instance, a 2013 study showed African-American patients with – a narrowing of the aortic valve opening – were more likely to decline valve replacement surgery than European Americans.

Horne co-authored another study published last year that found black patients hospitalized for heart valve disease at Methodist Dallas were 54 percent less likely than white patients to be referred to a specialist for surgery.

Dr. Benjamin Cruz, the lead author of that study, said the lower referral rate may be linked to doctor bias—a potential barrier that doctors should be made aware of and work to overcome starting in medical school.

"Only education will be able to break through" biases—and hopefully change physicians' behavior, said Cruz, now a heart failure and heart transplant fellow at the University of Birmingham in Alabama.

Dr. Keith C. Ferdinand, professor of medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans and former chair of the Association of Black Cardiologists, said doctors should take the time to learn as much as they can about their patients to better understand how their home life, work environment, educational background and personal relationships affect their health.

Ferdinand emphasized the need for doctors to learn how to talk to patients. The complicated words many doctors use to describe diseases and treatments can scare or confuse patients, he said, which may influence whether they decide to have a procedure such as valve replacement, which can extend survival and lessen symptoms.

Both Horne and Ferdinand noted that can also benefit from efforts to bring surgical procedures to treat valve diseases to more hospitals that serve a predominantly black population.

"We think that we're just missing out on too many patients," Horne said.

Explore further: FDA approves mechanical heart valve for newborns

Related Stories

FDA approves mechanical heart valve for newborns

March 7, 2018
(HealthDay)—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the world's smallest mechanical heart valve, designed to be used in newborns and other young infants with heart defects.

New technique makes heart valve replacement safer for some high-risk patients

April 2, 2018
Scientists have developed a novel technique that prevents coronary artery obstruction during transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a rare but often fatal complication. The method, called Bioprosthetic Aortic Scallop ...

Minimally invasive procedure increases options for mitral valve repair

February 22, 2018
Some heart patients haven't yet been able to access the growing trend toward minimally invasive procedures. A new clinical trial, though, makes a form of mitral valve repair an option without an open-heart surgery.

Study shows low mortality and stroke risks for minimally invasive aortic valve replacements

October 5, 2017
An analysis of more than 1,000 minimally invasive aortic valve replacements and more than 400 additional associated procedures over a five-and-a-half year period performed by Dr. Joseph Lamelas, professor and associate chief ...

Approval expanded for sapien artificial heart valve

October 22, 2012
(HealthDay)—U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for the Sapien Transcatheter Heart Valve has been expanded to include additional people with aortic valve stenosis, the medical term for a narrowing of the aortic valve ...

Brain measures tied to atrial pressure in valvular heart Dz

November 7, 2017
(HealthDay)—For patients with chronic valvular heart disease, white matter hyperintensity (WMH) volume is associated with mean right atrial (RA) pressure, according to a study published online Nov. 6 in JAMA Neurology.

Recommended for you

No sweat required: Team finds hypertension treatment that mimics effect of exercise

October 16, 2018
Couch potatoes rejoice—there might be a way to get the blood pressure lowering benefits of exercise in pill form.

New model suggests cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitoring possible using pulse waves

October 16, 2018
A large team of researchers from several institutions in China and the U.S. has developed a model that suggests it should be possible to create a cuffless, non-invasive blood pressure monitor based on measuring pulse waves. ...

Why heart contractions are weaker in those with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

October 16, 2018
When a young athlete suddenly dies of a heart attack, chances are high that they suffer from familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Itis the most common genetic heart disease in the US and affects an estimated 1 in 500 ...

Novel genetic study sheds new light on risk of heart attack

October 12, 2018
Loss of a protein that regulates mitochondrial function can greatly increase the risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack), Vanderbilt scientists reported Oct. 3 in the journal eLife.

Researchers say ritual for orthodox Jewish men may offer heart benefits

October 11, 2018
A pilot study led by researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine suggests Jewish men who practice wearing tefillin, which involves the tight wrapping of an arm with leather banding as part of daily ...

Markers of dairy fat consumption linked to lower risk of type two diabetes

October 10, 2018
Higher levels of biomarkers of dairy fat consumption are associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to new research published today in PLOS Medicine. The study, in more than 60,000 adults, was undertaken ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.