Matters of the heart: Preventing cardiovascular disease in Flint's marginalized communities

FLINT, Michigan — For the past 75 years, cardiovascular disease has been widely recognized as the leading cause of death in the United States. However, research shows that cardiovascular disease has now become the foremost cause of death for women; killing more women than all forms of cancer combined.

Cardiovascular disease represents several types of diseases connected to the heart and blood; the two powerhouses that comprise the cardiovascular system. Some cardiovascular diseases include high blood pressure, coronary heart disease (CHD), congestive heart failure (CHF), stroke, atrial fibrillation (AFib), and other heart-related diseases. 

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is an umbrella term that includes a variety of cardiovascular conditions that mostly stem from “a condition that develops when a substance called plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can block the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.”

The impact these diseases can have on a person’s health can vary, but they all can lead to death if not screened and treated early with the help of a medical practitioner.

Are there any preventative measures I can take?

Although the thought of cardiovascular disease can feel terrifying, people can significantly reduce the risk of disease through intentional lifestyle changes. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels normal and lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack.”

This begins with choosing healthy habits that will help prevent the likelihood of having heart disease. This is accomplished through the following changes:
  • Opt for a healthy diet that minimizes sodium and sugar consumption, is nutrient-packed, and full of fiber instead
  • Steer clear of foods/drinks high in saturated fats and trans fat
  • Be physically active and/or exercise regularly
  • Don’t smoke or use any tobacco products
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
It is also important to know your family’s history of heart disease. 

Making intentional lifestyle changes like exercising and minimizing sodium and sugar intake may reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Who is most at risk of being diagnosed with cardiovascular disease? 

Cardiovascular disease disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, especially throughout Flint and Genesee County. The disease specifically continues to be a challenge for the African American community of Flint due to existing racial disparities.

These disparities stem from disproportionate rates of preexisting health conditions like high blood pressure and obesity: both leading risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Disproportionate rates of cardiovascular disease in communities of color have also been linked to poor access to health insurance and quality medical care ultimately leading to delayed diagnosis and treatment. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH), “In 2019, African Americans were 30 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than non-Hispanic whites.”

“Although African American adults are 30 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, they are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have their blood pressure under control. African American women are nearly 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, as compared to non-Hispanic white women,” reported OMH.

Local resources like Hamilton Community Health Network provides assistance with heart screening and preventative information for healthy heart care.

I think I may be at risk. Where can I get additional resources?

In an attempt to level the health playing field, many community organizations and health organizers are currently advocating for and creating health education materials to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease. Local resources like Hamilton Community Health Network offers comprehensive healthcare services and educational materials to help community members build healthy lifestyles.

For more heart-specific questions and concerns, Flint residents can schedule an appointment with Hamilton’s North Pointe clinic to speak directly with nurse practitioner Nicole Morgan, to learn more information about heart health and preventative measures. The Hamilton team can be reached at 810-406-4246 or online at

How can I help raise awareness in my community?

As cardiovascular disease continues to impact vulnerable communities throughout Flint and Genesee County, it is important that we work together to spread the word, raise awareness and share educational materials and resources with members of the community. 

Speaking to friends and family about the risks of cardiovascular disease is always a great way to get started. It's important that everyone knows the signs of both a heart attack and a stroke.

Also, it is important to be aware of any legislation being introduced in the local, state, and federal governments that concern healthcare. The future of healthcare will directly impact the medical care at-risk communities have access to. 

For additional resources and information on cardiovascular disease, visit these websites:
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Brianna Nargiso.