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Black women, heart disease and how cardiac rehab can help

Moore says proper exercise and diet can contribute to good heart health.
Moore says proper exercise and diet can contribute to good heart health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the U.S. Black women have a greater risk: One in every two over the age of 20 has some form of heart disease – and many don’t know it. Tierra Moore, an exercise physiologist with Texas Health Dallas, talks about why with KERA's Sam Baker.


Why do women fail to recognize the symptoms of heart disease

With us, it’s women helping to run a family. They do housework or whatever duties that they have there or with the pandemic working from home and trying to juggle home life and work. We're not aware of our symptoms.

It's like, “Oh, I got a pain” or “I must have lifted something wrong.” Or, you know, “I'm just doing too much. I just need to rest.” We ignore our symptomsbecause we do everything.

Heart disease affects one of every two Black women over age 20. Why so young?

With a younger population, it's hard because they're so used to hanging out, eating fast food, and not looking at the fact of how many calories are in what they're eating or the sodium content.

When I was younger, we were active. We had to go outside. It wasn't sitting in front of a TV. The majority of today’s generation is all about Tik Tok, Facebook. They’re not as active.

What can be done to lower or eliminate that problem before a heart event happens?

Knowing your numbers. Talk to your doctor when you feel something. Knowing the symptoms, knowing your body, knowing your blood pressure and your cholesterol numbersare big keys. Make sure you're exercising, and that you have a healthy weight.

Lifestyle has a big key component, as well as exercise and your diet. Just because you may live in a certain area that may cater to a lot of fast food, you have to make sure you make wise choices even if you are eating fast food or even at the grocery store. You have to make sure you know what you're putting into your body.

What is cardiac rehab, and what role does it play in addressing this problem?

Cardiac rehab (rehabilitation) is a secondary preventative tool in helping you manage your symptoms, as well as making sure that you're getting a good overall exercise regimen, education about your cholesterol levels, and monitoring of your blood pressure.

With cardiac rehab, you have a team that is not just clinicians or your nurses or your exercise physiologist, but we’ll also put you in contact with a dietitian. We also help our patients get coping skills with managing anxiety and stress because those are big triggers, too with lifestyle.

These are needed steps to try to make sure you don't have another cardiac event?

Cardiac rehab does help with not having another event, but some of our patients may see us multiple times due to their genetics, which is something that unfortunately we can't change.

Habits are hard to change. Is cardiac rehab about that as well. 

Cardiac rehab is not a one-size-fits-all. So that's why we get to know our patients and what their goals are. They may want to go back to just being able to walk from their house down the block or being able to walk around their neighborhood park or gardening.

Whatever the case may be, we get to know them so that we can give them tools that will make them successful, not have another event, and to know what is beneficial for them.

This article has been edited for length and clarity.

Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.


Heart disease in African American women: The health disparities and how to overcome them

Black Women & Heart Disease: What to Expect When You’re Trying to Prevent Heart Disease

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

CDC on cardiac rehab benefits:

Black women and cardiovascular risk factors:

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.