Examining the relationship between body image perceptions and perceived threat of heart disease among African American women
The purpose of this study was to provide further insight into the relationship to how African American women's body image perceptions impact their perceived threat of heart disease and to assess their awareness of heart disease and its risk factors. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans and African American women have been identified as the highest at risk group among all ethnicities. The participants in this study consisted of 148 African American women with a mean age of 42 (± 12.66 years) and a mean BMI of 30.66 (± 12.65). All participants completed an online survey assessing their perceived threat of heart disease, its risk factors and modifiable lifestyle factors. Bivariate correlations were conducted to assess all relationships. The results revealed a low correlation between African American women's perceived threat of heart disease and body image perceptions. Those women who evaluated themselves as more attractive and who are more preoccupied with their weight have lower levels of perceived susceptibility for heart disease (r 2 = 16.00%). Low correlations were also observed between risk factors of heart disease, modifiable lifestyle factors, and perceived threat of heart disease (p < 0.005). Among heart disease risk factors such as BMI, blood cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and diabetes, only blood sugar was significantly related to perceived susceptibility of heart disease ([special characters omitted] = 7.29%). Furthermore, lifestyle factors such as weight, smoking habits, daily exercise, and dietary practices like daily servings of fruit, vegetables, grains, fish, sugar, and sodium were examined. However, none of the modifiable lifestyle factors had significant relationships with either perceived susceptibility or perceived seriousness. A considerable amount of variability existed within each of the measures, which led to mostly low correlations between each variable and perceived threat of heart disease. The explanation of the variability seen here could be the combination of a lack of knowledge and awareness regarding heart disease risk factors among African American women. Another apparent confounding issue is the cultural ideal towards what typically constitutes a physically desirable African American female body. Therefore, cultural factors could inadvertently negatively influence heart disease measure in African American women.