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Illness Narratives of African Americans Living With Coronary Heart Disease


How African American men and women respond to and manage living with coronary heart disease (CHD) is not well understood despite the well-documented disproportionate burden of CHD and its complications among African Americans in the United States. Through a critical interactionist perspective, we explore illness experiences of African Americans living with CHD and describe a broad range of micro-, meso-, and macro-contextual factors that influence their illness experiences. For participants in this study, CHD has become a "Black disease" wherein certain bodies have become historically and racially marked; a conceptualization maintained and passed on by African Americans themselves. Such findings highlight that CHD is more than a "lifestyle disease" where high-risk behaviors and lack of healthy choices are ultimate culprits. Rather, CHD is perceived by African Americans who have it as yet another product of ongoing racial and socio-structural dynamics through which their health burdens are created, sustained, and reproduced.

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