Preventing cardiovascular disease: “Spirit of the Heart Chicago”

Cardiology Review® Online, September 2008, Volume 25, Issue 9

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health Web site,, 110 Illinoisans lose their lives to cardiovascular disease every day. African Americans have the highest rates of coronary heart disease mortality and fatal and nonfatal stroke. As a result, too many African Americans are dying prematurely. Early diagnosis and treatment are imperative because individuals with cardiovascular disease often have no warning signs before a morbid or mortal event. Identification of high-risk patients requires evaluation for cardiovascular risk factors, including blood pressure and lipid levels, specifically low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides.

On April 19 and 20, 2008, the Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) united with African American churches and leaders in the Chicago area to educate people about heart health in a continuing effort to decrease myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke in the disproportionately affected African American community. During Sunday services, ministers at participating churches read scripts about heart health that had been previously distributed to them, and a Community Leaders Forum was conducted. Leaders in attendance included Dr Linda Murray, chief medical officer, Cook County Department of Health, Dr Sandra Burke of the American Heart Association, and Dr Terry Mason, commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health. Dr Mason has a popular Chicago program called “Doctor in the House” on WVON-AM, and for the event, he interviewed Dr Kim A. Williams, chair, Board of the ABC, and professor of medicine, director of nuclear cardiology, University of Chicago. Dr Williams noted “it is essential people understand that heart disease is preventable, and heart healthy practices are important for longevity.”

As part of the preventive effort, major screenings were completed at several churches, and a series of educational materials developed by the ABC for African Americans about healthy living, lifestyle choices, and heart health were distributed. The ABC’s motto is that “children should know their grandparents,” and for this to occur, more African Americans need to learn that heart healthy nutrition and physical activity are essential therapeutic lifestyle changes needed to address adverse living routines. As part of this educational endeavor, physical activity and cooking demonstrations were held. A local culinary school created healthy versions of the traditional African American Sunday dinner, with a menu consisting of collard greens, oven fried chicken, macaroni and cheese (recipe below), and peach cobbler. There were onsite live instructions and food samplings. All attendees received a recipe package, which included nutritional facts. To stimulate the community regarding the benefits of physical activity, a group workout was held that included simple movements and exercises that can be performed at home without expensive equipment.

The ABC hosted this event in conjunction with National Minority Health Month. Materials are available at the ABC Web site, in the online catalogue.