African-American Heart Attack Survivors Cite Experience as a "Wake-Up Call" to Address Health and Life Issues

Share Article

National Medical Association Survey of Heart Attack Survivors uncovers emotional impact, educational needs and disparity among racial groups.

As an unfortunate result, rehospitalization rates among African-American heart patients are high. In addition, the incidence of diabetes and hypertension in this population further complicates post-heart attack treatment. Therefore, it is critical that the African-American heart attack survivors, along with their families, are aware of the risks and gain the information and support they need.

African-Americans who have suffered a heart attack consider their experience a "wake-up call" that leads to reevaluating priorities, growing closer to faith and recognizing the importance of strong heart health behaviors, according to new survey findings announced today by the National Medical Association (NMA). While a majority of those surveyed view their heart attack as a second chance at life, the results surprisingly indicate that nearly 30 percent of African-Americans state they are not doing everything they can to avoid another heart attack. In fact, according to the survey findings, 27 percent of African-Americans do not take their heart medications exactly as prescribed by their physicians after their heart attack.

Approximately half of the heart attack survivors surveyed report there is not enough information available about preventing future heart attacks or what to do after having one. Many of those polled feel that speaking to another heart attack survivor could provide much needed information. Overall, the survey finds that while African-American heart attack survivors look at their heart attack as a wake-up call, they lack information to prevent a second incident.

"When we look at the percentage of the African-American population that suffer heart attacks and the resulting death rate, when compared to other ethnic groups, we see a clear disparity which illustrates a significant need for education and support initiatives for heart health within our community," stated Albert W. Morris, Jr., M.D., president of the NMA. "The National Medical Association through the 'Heartfelt Wake-Up Call' campaign hopes to create a community amongst survivors and provide additional information to these survivors and to embrace and support their efforts to live a heart healthy life after a heart attack and to prevent another from occurring."

To raise awareness in the African-American community, the NMA commissioned the survey of African-American heart attack survivors. The survey was conducted by Yankelovich, Inc. and funded and assisted by GlaxoSmithKline. The initiative is part of the "Heartfelt Wake-Up Call" campaign, started in 2005 by Mended Hearts, a heart patient organization affiliated with the American Heart Association. The campaign offers information to better support African-American heart attack survivors and their caregivers cope with life after a heart attack. Additional information including tips sheets, survivor stories and heart-healthy holiday recipes is available on and

Inside the Heart of a Survivor

The survey of more than 500 African-American heart attack survivors taps into the emotional impacts of heart attacks. A majority indicate their heart attack forced them to face their mortality (62 percent), they now spend more time with friends and family (66 percent), are motivated to accomplish goals (62 percent), and are trying to move closer to God and their faith (67 percent). A majority of heart attack survivors also say the experience made them realize how much they want to see their children and grandchildren grow up (68 percent).

The survey also shows that in addition to viewing their heart attack as a wake-up call (68 percent), those surveyed also acknowledge that they are at a higher risk for having another heart attack (93 percent), and that they are at an increased risk of developing a chronic condition such as heart failure (73 percent).

"Studies show that African-American heart patients may have a different natural history of heart failure than non-African-American patients and may be less likely to receive guideline-recommended, evidence-based therapies due to less access to care. Certain heart medications, like beta-blockers, are often underutilized even though they've been shown to reduce the chance of another heart attack and reduce the risk of dying in heart attack patients with damaged hearts," stated Dr. Clyde Yancy, medical director of the Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute of Baylor University Medical in Dallas, Texas. "As an unfortunate result, rehospitalization rates among African-American heart patients are high. In addition, the incidence of diabetes and hypertension in this population further complicates post-heart attack treatment. Therefore, it is critical that the African-American heart attack survivors, along with their families, are aware of the risks and gain the information and support they need."

About Heart Attacks

Each year in the U.S., nearly 900,000 people suffer from heart attacks, known medically as myocardial infarction. Within only six years, nearly 20 percent of men and 35 percent of women will have another heart attack, a risk that is heightened in the winter months. Annually, it is estimated that nearly 125,000 African-Americans will experience a new or repeat heart attack or fatal cardiovascular disease event. In fact, more than 18,000 African-American men and women died as a result a heart attack in 2002.

Heart attacks occur when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is severely reduced or blocked. This narrowing of the coronary vessels is often linked with risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity and obesity. Risk factors may also be associated with family history.

About National Medical Association

The National Medical Association (NMA) is the collective voice of African-American physicians and the leading force for parity and justice in medicine, heart medications and the elimination of disparities in health. NMA is the largest and oldest national organization representing the interests of more than 25,000 African-American physicians and their patients in the United States and is a 501(c)(3) national professional and scientific organization. NMA is committed to improving the quality of heart health among minorities and disadvantaged people through its membership, professional development, community health education, advocacy, research and partnerships with federal and private agencies. Throughout its history NMA has focused primarily on health issues related to African-Americans and medically underserved populations; however, its principles, goals, initiatives and philosophy encompass all ethnic groups.

About the Survey

TSC, a division of Yankelovich, conducted this online survey on behalf of the National Medical Association between August 25 and September 20, 2006 among 502 African-American adults aged 18 or older who have experienced a heart attack. The sampling error is plus or minus 4.5 percent. The survey report focuses on the findings among African-American heart attack survivors, comparing them with the general population results from a similar survey conducted in 2005 by Harris Interactive on behalf of Mended Hearts (n=518).

About Yankelovich

For more than 30 years, the Yankelovich MONITOR has tracked and forecasted consumer value and lifestyle trends. TSC, a division of Yankelovich, is a full-service custom research firm counseling a broad range of business, media, and not-for-profit association clients and policy makers.

The National Medical Association wishes to thank GlaxoSmithKline for funding and assisting this initiative. GlaxoSmithKline, one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies, is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.

For more information, visit


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Kathryn Ritzinger
Visit website