African-Americans have worse cardiovascular health and more deaths as a result of heart disease than other ethnic groups, Reuters reports.

“While African Americans are more likely to experience many cardiovascular diseases, in particular strokes and heart failure, they are also more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases,” Dr. Mercedes R. Carnethon from Northwestern University Preventive Medicine in Chicago told Reuters Health by email.

This is largely in part to Blacks developing nearly all cardiovascular diseases (heart attack, stroke, and heart failure) at a relatively young age.

According to Carnethon, “higher rates of death may arise from the length of time that African-Americans live with these conditions. Interrupting this process by preventing the early onset of cardiovascular diseases is one strategy to reduce disparities in cardiovascular disease mortality.”

Traditional cardiovascular risk such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and atherosclerosis start at earlier ages among African-Americans, Carnethon said.

A 2005 study pointed out disparities in the rates of cardiovascular disease, disease management, and outcomes for African-Americans.

Researchers attribute many of the differences to unhealthy behaviors, lower implementation of guidelines that improve cardiovascular health and a lack of persistence in implementing and follow lifestyle changes that should be long lasting.

Genetic differences in African-Americans only seem to explain a small part of the disparity in rates and outcomes connected to cardiovascular disease.

“Cardiovascular diseases are preventable with healthy lifestyles,” Carnethon said. “Unfortunately, many African-Americans do not have equal access to the resources needed to lead healthy lifestyles, specifically access to healthy foods, safe spaces for physical activity, and peaceful homes and communities that promote restorative sleep.”