CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s no coincidence that Heart Month is in February — the American Heart Association makes clear that when people think about metaphorical hearts as Valentine’s Day approaches, it also wants them to think about physical heart health.
It might be more of a coincidence that Heart Month and Black History Month are in the same month, but one Midstate cardiologist says the connection is appropriate.
“We do, in the African-American community, have a disproportionate amount of sudden death” due to heart disease and other heart health-related issues, said Dr. Mallory McClure, a Chambersburg-based staff cardiologist with WellSpan Cardiologist. Citing statistics from the CDC and American Heart Association, WellSpan says black Americans are 40 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than white Americans and are 20 percent more likely to die of heart disease.
McClure, who is African-American, chose her career path for personal reasons. She was 15 years old when, in the summer of 1986, her 47-year-old mother, Minerva McClure, died suddenly because of what turned out to be a previously-undetected heart condition.
“My mom — it’s like she suddenly disappeared,” McClure said. “So that’s how I got interested in the heart.”
Years later, McClure’s father, George McClure, died too of heart disease, in his case a coronary blockage. He was 66.
While African-Americans are overrepresented among heart disease victims, they are underrepresented among medical doctors, in terms of the percentage of doctors who are African-American compared to the percentage of the overall population that is African-America. McClure says that makes it particularly important for doctors like her to deliver messages about good diet and exercise and being proactive about seeking medical care.
“I speak a ‘language’ a little bit different” from doctors who aren’t African-American, she said. “And I understand what some of the issues are about access, and about people not feeling heard and not feeling safe. I feel that myself, and I’m a doctor!”
She says February is a perfect time to deliver heart-healthy messages “because we have people’s attention,” thanks to Black History Month.