By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As CBS3 continues to commemorate Black History Month, Eyewitness News wants to bring attention to something that disproportionately impacts Black Americans — heart disease. This Heart Month, CBS3 introduces you to a Philadelphia doctor who’s on a mission to raise awareness.

Heart disease is the leading killer of all Americans, but many don’t realize that. For African Americans, there is one risk factor of special concern.

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African Americans have higher rates of heart disease than white men and women and are 30% more likely to die from it.

“They tend to have their conditions 10 to 15 years younger than the general population,” Dr. Deborah Crabbe said.

Crabbe, a cardiologist at Temple University Hospital, says there are a variety of reasons for the high rates of heart disease among Black people, but there’s one thing that stands out most.

“Hypertension explains a lot of risk in this population,” Crabbe said.

High blood pressure is often linked to obesity, but there are a variety of causes. African Americans are twice as likely to have hypertension than whites and it’s often a silent killer because there are usually no symptoms.

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“So as a physician, it’s difficult to convince people who feel OK to take a medication. And then if you’re African American, the average African American needs three or four medicines to control their blood pressure. So try to convince somebody who feels perfectly fine to take three or four medicines,” Crabbe said.

Crabbe says most heart diseases can be either prevented or controlled. The first step is knowing your numbers — blood pressure and cholesterol.

“There is 10% or 15% of the population who is walking around never had their blood pressure checked. You gotta know you have hypertension before you can even treat it,” Crabbe said.

For Crabbe, it’s personal. Her dad died from coronary artery disease. He was just 73.

“I helped him as much as I could, and I got him on meds and I got him treated and this and that,” Crabbe said, “but you know, he was afraid of some of the other things that needed to be done.”

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Tuesday is the anniversary of the passing of Crabbe’s dad, a special day for her to raise awareness about heart disease.

Stephanie Stahl