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Hypertension, heart disease patients have higher risk of getting COVID-19

Posted at 10:17 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 23:17:55-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and it's one of the number one killers in Tennessee.

According to the American Heart Association, cities like Nashville are at the top when it comes to people suffering from the disease, while other conditions like hypertension puts more people at risk of developing it.

Doctors say the numbers are even higher in black communities where many suffer from diabetes, obesity and heart conditions.

"Heart disease is very common in Tennessee and the south east as a whole. It’s known as the stroke belt or the heart disease belt," said Dr. Henry Okafor, chief cardiologist at Nashville General Hospital.

In cities like Chicago and Detroit, the number of African Americans contracting COVID-19 is increasing and at a much higher rate than other racial groups. Dr. Okafor says there are a number of factors to attribute to the numbers, and health is one of them.

"There are a lot of vulnerable populations, the lower socioeconomic class, the low literacy group are at higher risk of these diseases," said Okafor, "We know that hypertension and heart disease is more prevalent in these populations."

Okafor is part of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Barbershop initiative in Nashville to test more black men for hypertension and high blood pressure.

He says COVID-19 has placed a spotlight on the equities communities of color are facing.

Okafor's advice for his patients with heart disease is to wear a mask in public, wash your hands, and if you can - stay inside.