Black American Risks for Heart Disease or Stroke

Heart disease kills more Americans than any other condition. For Black Americans the risk of heart disease is even higher. Data from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) notes that Black Americans are 30% more likely to die from heart disease 1 than non-Hispanic Whites.

In addition, 29.9 % of Black men and 27.9% of Black women have high levels of LDL-cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”). 2

Disparities in diagnosis and treatment contribute to the higher risk of heart disease among Black Americans. 3, 4

A lot of work still needs to be done to address these disparities and improve care for Black Americans.

Genetic Risk Factors for Heart Disease and Stroke

Heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events can happen at any age. Your risk for heart disease comes from your genetics, physical activity and lifestyle choices like smoking and diet.

But, genetic conditions like familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) or high Lipoprotein(a), or Lp(a), can increase your risk for heart disease no matter how you live your life.

A simple blood test and knowing your family’s health history can help you lower your risk for these genetic conditions.

Lp(a) and FH in Black Americans

Research by the Family Heart Foundation and others finds that Black Americans have higher Lp(a) levels than any other racial group.

FH impacts 1 in 250 individuals worldwide regardless of race or ethnicity. Because Black Americans are at greater risk than White Americans to have additional cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes, the addition of FH and possibly high lipoprotein (a) can mean early and potentially devastating cardiac events in Black Americans.

A study using the Family Heart Foundation’s CASCADE FH® patient registry showed that Black Americans were diagnosed with FH at older ages than any other racial and ethnic group. 5, 6 And compared to White persons, Black Americans were less likely to achieve lower levels of LDL-C. This is likely because of limited access to cholesterol screenings and medications. 7 Socioeconomic status and other health conditions that also play a role.


Familial Hypercholesterolemia and high Lipoprotein(a) Story

Access to Medications

Black Americans experience disparities in getting routine care and needed medications to lower LDL-C. A study showed that people from racial and ethnic groups were less likely to get approval from their insurance for certain types of medicines to lower cholesterol. And, if they did get approval, they were less likely to fill their prescription. This placed them at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

It’s crucial that we all work to improve the lives of every American. With timely screenings and care, we can help save generations of families from heart disease. The Family Heart Foundation continues to fund research on health disparities among Black Americans.


Find out if you could be at risk for FH and/or Lp(a). Download the Family History Checklist.


"Runs in the family" is not a diagnosis. You deserve to know why. When you know your risk, you can protect yourself and your family. Learn more about genetic risks.