A number of health concerns significantly affect African Americans, including diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure. This article discusses several diseases and medical conditions that are of particular concern to African Americans.
In 2016, 44 percent of HIV diagnoses in the United States were in African Americans. Most people who have HIV do not detect it in its early stages. Many African Americans face discrimination, homophobia and fear surrounding HIV.As a result, they are more likely to be discouraged from getting tested and fall victim to AIDS.
Men are more likely to contract HIV than women, but that does not mean that women should not take precautions. Since African American communities have higher rates of STDs, it is important to use a condom during sex and see a doctor or gynecologist regularly in order to stay healthy and stop STDs from spreading.
Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Sickle cell disease causes red blood cells to become C-shaped and sticky. These damaged cells die early and cause a shortage of red blood cells. A person with sickle cell will experience pain, infection and stroke. While the exact number of people living with sickle cell disease is unknown, it is estimated that it occurs in about one of 365 African American births.
African Americans are at greater risk of heart disease. Obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes significantly raise a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke, all of which are widespread in African American communities.
- Obesity – 63 percent of African American men and 77 percent of African American women are overweight or obese. It can be a challenge to lose weight. Try to exercise a little bit each day and be more cautious of the sugar and calories you are consuming. Try to eat lean meats like poultry or fish and increasing the amount of vegetables you eat.
- High Blood Pressure – African Americans have higher blood pressure than any other demographic. A high sodium diet and genetics play a role in high blood pressure. Since your sodium intake can change over time, make sure to check your blood pressure at least every two years. If you have high blood pressure, ask your doctor if you should take medication or make lifestyle changes in order to stabilize your blood pressure.
- Diabetes – African Americans are more likely to have diabetes in comparison to the white population. Diabetes is preventable by eating a healthy diet and being active for at least 30 minutes a day in order to keep your heart rate up.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in African American women and prostate cancer is the most common for men. Unequal access to care, screening and treatment may explain why African Americans are more prone to dying from cancer than any other race.
In many urban communities, there are liquor and tobacco stores that sell junk food, but no healthy food and produce. Many people who live in these areas have to walk at least a mile or use public transportation in order to find a grocery store since many people in the city do not own vehicles. Areas where people cannot find food are referred to as “food deserts.”
Legal and illegal dumping of pollutants also pose a serious threat to African Americans, likely contributing to the high rates of asthma, lung cancer and disease in African Americans.
Lets make sure we are seeking proper medical attention, especially if we know these diseases run in our family!
- American Cancer Society: www.cancer.org
- U.S. National Library of Medicine – African American Health: https://medlineplus.gov/africanamericanhealth.html
- NAACP Health Care Fact Sheet: www.naacp.org/pages/health-care-fact-sheet
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov