Why Heart Health Awareness is Crucial for African Americans

When former NBA player Caron Butler was in the league, exercise wasn’t something he needed to worry about during his 14-year professional career. These days, in his new role as an assistant coach at Miami Heat, he’s learned to be more mindful about incorporating physical activity into his daily routine to help maintain good heart health.

“Now that I’m retired, staying in shape is no longer part of my job,” Butler says. “I have to make sure I set aside time to shoot hoops with my kids or go for a walk during the day — especially while we’re spending more time at home.”

Butler hopes others follow his example. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States each year,[i] and African Americans are about 20% more likely to die from the condition compared to other racial or ethnic groups.[ii] With these statistics in mind, and as you navigate life during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more important to be aware of heart health as existing heart conditions can increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.[iii]

Black men, in particular, face disparities when it comes to heart disease and heart health. These disparities can include medical procedures and care.[iv] A 2018 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that Black men were less likely to receive cardiac medical procedures than white men — even when presenting with similar symptoms.iv


To help increase awareness and encourage action, Butler has teamed up with Astellas to encourage Black men and women to set the screen — make an appointment for a heart health screening. Set the Screen is a national campaign designed to empower African Americans to prioritize their heart health by raising awareness of some of the known (smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity) and lesser-known cardiovascular risks, such as genetics.[v]

Butler has experienced heart disease on a personal level with his extended family and is passionate about ensuring Black men know their risk and, importantly, speak with their doctor to help reduce it.

Now that he’s not playing professional basketball every day, Butler tries to adhere to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ guidelines that suggest 150-300 minutes of moderate activity or 75-150 minutes of intense activity each week.[vi]

Physical activity is vital to heart health, but so is rest. The benefits of a good night’s sleep can extend far beyond sweet dreams. Almost one-third of Americans get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, which puts them at a higher risk for heart disease.[vii]

As Americans are increasingly aware of their health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, scheduling a cardiovascular screening virtually or in person is an important step in taking control of your health. “Set the Screen” and make an appointment with your doctor today.

“I am proud to partner with Astellas and the National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA), to help address some of the health disparities that exist in this country today,” says Butler. “By encouraging more African Americans to talk to their doctors, I believe we can empower them to make their heart health a priority.”

To learn more about how to reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease[viii], visit MindYourHeartFacts.com.

Sponsored by Astellas Pharma US, Inc.

[i] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Vital Statistics Reports. Deaths: Final data for 2017 (06-24-2019). https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr68/nvsr68_09-508.pdf. Accessed 10-07-2020.

[ii] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health. Heart Disease and African Americans (02-14-2020). https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=19. Accessed 11-24-2020.

[iii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). People with Certain Medical Conditions. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-medical-conditions.html#heart-conditions. Accessed 12-03-2020.

[iv] Arora S, Stouffer GA, Kurcharska-Newton A, et al. Fifteen-Year trends in management and outcomes of non-ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction among black and white patients: the ARIC community surveillance study, 2000–2014. J Am Heart Assoc 2018;7(19):e010203.

[v] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Know Your Risk for Heart Disease (12-09-2016). https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/risk_factors.htm. Accessed 11-24-2020.

[vi] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2018.

[vii] Virani SS, Alonso A, Benjamin EJ, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics-2020 update. Circulation 2020;141(9):e139-596.

[viii] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) (12-09-2019). https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/coronary_ad.htm. Accessed 12-09.20.

Author Profile

The Editorial Team at Lake Oconee Health is made up of skilled health and wellness writers and experts, led by Daniel Casciato who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We aim to provide our readers with valuable insights and guidance to help them lead healthier and happier lives.