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Heart disease and stroke are the biggest killers in the United States, and minority populations are hardest hit, a federal health official said Saturday.

The status of the cardiovascular health of minorities, especially blacks, has remained the same since a 1985 study showed more blacks die of heart disease than whites, said Dr. William Robinson, director of the U.S. Office of Minority Health."The Department of Health and Human Services is developing a comprehensive plan to improve the health status of minorities in the United States," Robinson said a conference called "Attacking Cardiovascular Disease in Minority Populations."

"The objectives will focus on the major health problem areas responsible for excess minority deaths, prominently including cardiovascular disease and stroke, but also cancer, diabetes, chemical dependency, homicide, infant mortality and HIV infection," Robinson said.

The 1985 study said documented nearly 60,000 "excess" deaths in minority populations.

"That is, 60,000 minority men, women and children who would not die each year if minority death rates were the same as those in our majority population," Robinson said. "Heart disease and stroke were responsible for 18,000, or nearly one-third, of those excess deaths."

The increased risk of coronary heart disease among blacks comes from factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. A recent report said 40 percent of blacks have high blood pressure, Robinson said.

"People with high blood pressure have three to four times the risk of developing coronary heart disease and as much as seven times the risk of stroke as people with normal blood pressure," Robinson said.

"My message today is prevention. When you think about prevention, you only need to focus on some remarkably simple things that can make a dramatic impact in reducing risks - get high blood pressure under control, quit smoking, control cholestrol levels, keep diabetes under control, keep your weight down and exercise," Robinson said.