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Heart Disease Health Center

U.S. Blacks Still Lag Whites in Life Expectancy

Heart disease, cancer and murder main contributors to four-year disparity, experts say
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However, another expert said that efforts to reduce the risk factors for heart disease and cancer among blacks would help narrow the gap.

"This report confirms two things we know. One, that black life expectancy lags behind white life expectancy by a considerable margin. Two, that the main reasons for the gap are preventable," said Sam Harper, from the department of epidemiology, biostatistics & occupational health at McGill University in Hamilton, Canada.

"We need to focus our efforts at reducing the major risk factors for heart disease that disproportionately affect black Americans, and making certain that blacks are benefiting from improvements in medical treatments for cancer and heart disease," Harper said. "Redoubling our efforts on these two diseases would go a long way towards reducing the black-white life expectancy gap."

Other highlights of the report include:

  • Life expectancy for black men was 4.7 years less than for white men.
  • Life expectancy for black women was 3.3 years less than white women.
  • Life expectancy for whites went from 71.7 years old in 1970 to 78.9 years old in 2010, while the life expectancy for blacks went from 64.1 years old to 75.1 years old during that same period.

Dr. Robert Graham, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, noted that "this disparity is related to access to care for these diseases that disproportionally affect the black community. We have to change the way we provide care to our communities."

In addition, ways need to be found to curb the violence that "is needlessly killing young African Americans," Graham said.

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