New research on coronavirus patients adds to a growing collection of studies that COVID-19 disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities.

African-American COVID-19 patients have 2.7 times the odds of being admitted to the hospital, compared to non-Hispanic white patients — after taking into account sex, age, income and co-morbid health conditions, according to a new study in the journal Health Affairs by researchers affiliated with Sutter Health, a nonprofit health system in northern California.

Marcus E. St. John, M.D.,
interventional cardiologist with
Miami Cardiac & Vascular

Moreover, African-Americans disproportionately have underlying risk factors, such has high blood pressure, and are far more likely to be diagnosed with and die from coronary heart disease. This puts African-Americans at a higher risk of serious illness from the coronavirus.

“In terms of cardiovascular health, there is a disproportionate occurrence of risk factors in African-Americans,” says Marcus St. John, M.D., interventional cardiologist with Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida.

According to statistics from the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, one in four deaths is caused by heart disease – more than all forms of cancer combined. One particular group, however, has a much higher risk of heart disease.


Statistics from show that African-Americans are:

  • 40 percent more likely to have hypertension (high blood pressure), yet 10 percent less likely than their non-Hispanic, White counterparts to have it under control
  • More than three times as likely to die from heart disease caused by high blood pressure than Caucasians
  • More likely to die from stress-related heart attacks (African-American men) than any other ethnic group in the U.S.

There could be a variety of reasons for these disparities, according to Dr. St. John, who also serves as Medical Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Baptist Hospital.

“Some of it may be due to genetic predispositions. For instance, we know that African-Americans are more likely than other groups to be salt-sensitive, making them more likely to develop hypertension, a major contributor to coronary artery disease,” Dr. St. John says.

Socio-economic conditions, healthcare illiteracy and lack of access are also factors, he says, as is a culturally rooted distrust of institutionalized healthcare.

“As a result, by the time they do eventually get diagnosed, their heart disease may have progressed further and be far more serious, which contributes to a higher death rate for this particular population, ” Dr. St. John says.

The good news, however, is that heart disease can often be prevented by making healthy choices and managing your health conditions.

First, he says, know your numbers. “Knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers – what they are and where they should be – is important and can easily be done at your local pharmacy or a walk-in clinic.”

Beyond that, making healthy choices is key to maintaining a healthy heart, Dr. St. John says. “In most cases, heart disease can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle.”

Heart-healthy lifestyle choices, according to Dr. St. John, include:

  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Controlling blood sugar and cholesterol
  • Limiting foods high in salt, sugar and fat
  • Increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Treating high blood pressure
  • Getting adequate sleep (7 to 8 hours a night, minimum)
  • Exercising regularly – at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week
  • Getting regular check-ups

“First thing I advise is to take a 15-minute walk, whether you’re at work or at home,” Dr. St. John says. “That’s an easy starting point. And if you’re used to walking, make it a 30-minute walk. Then, start focusing on other ways you can maintain a healthy heart.”

Cardiologists have the training, tools and technology and to help treat your heart disease, Dr. St. John says. “But it’s up to you to make smart choices and take care of your heart – not just in February but all year long.”


For appointments, physician referrals, or second opinions please call us at 786-755-1409. International patients, please call 786-596-2373.

Related Stories


Heart Valve Procedures in a COVID-19 World: Here are the Facts

At the height of the COVID-19 shutdown, a frail, 93-year-old man needed a complex aortic valve replacement to survive. Physicians at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute didn’t hesitate.

‘Life’s Simple 7’ Steps: Lowering Risk for Heart Disease More Vital Than Ever

When it comes to COVID-19, older adults with coronary heart disease or high blood pressure are more likely to develop more severe symptoms, states the American Heart Association (AHA).

Rule Out DVT: Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute Expedites Diagnoses of ‘Deep Vein Thrombosis’

Deep vein thrombosis, better known as DVT, refers to a blood clot that forms in a deep vein.

Quarantine Drinking: Experts Warn Against Too Many Virtual Happy Hours

With drinks like the Quarantini, many people are toasting to their colleagues and friends and de-stressing from everything COVID-19 through virtual happy hours.

Wearing Face Masks or ‘Cloth Coverings’ Helps Slow Spread of COVID-19

The required use of face masks could slow the spread of the coronavirus by as much as 40 percent daily, according to a new study.

A Trip to the ER During COVID-19

Sam Verdeja went to bed the night of May 14th with some discomfort in his lower left abdomen.

Meet Ken Davis: A ‘Walking-Talking Miracle’ After Aortic Dissection

An estimated 90 percent of people who suffer an aortic dissection die on the spot. That sobering statistic is why Ken Davis, 64, spends more time than most reflecting on his good fortune.

What You Need to Know About COVID-19 Testing

As a second wave of COVID-19 cases continues to spread across South Florida, Baptist Health is committed to caring for the community, especially those with urgent and emergent healthcare needs.