Skip to content

Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

Why 7 Deadly Diseases Strike Blacks Most

Health care disparities heighten disease differences between African-Americans and white Americans.
Font Size
A
A
A
By
WebMD Feature

Several deadly diseases strike black Americans harder and more often than they do white Americans.

Fighting back means genetic research. It means changing the system for testing new drugs. It means improving health education. It means overcoming disparities in health care. It means investments targeted to the health of black Americans. And the evidence so far indicates that these investments will pay health dividends not just for racial minorities, but for everyone.

Recommended Related to Hypertension

High Blood Pressure in African-Americans

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects African-Americans in unique ways: African-Americans develop high blood pressure at younger ages than other groups in the U.S. African-Americans are more likely to develop complications associated with high blood pressure. These problems include stroke, kidney disease, blindness, dementia, and heart disease. Why is high blood pressure in African-Americans so common? If you are African-American, what can you do to avoid developing...

Read the High Blood Pressure in African-Americans article > >

Yet we're closer to the beginning of the fight than to the end. Some numbers:

  • Diabetes is 60% more common in black Americans than in white Americans. Blacks are up to 2.5 times more likely to suffer a limb amputation and up to 5.6 times more likely to suffer kidney disease than other people with diabetes.
  • African-Americans are three times more likely to die of asthma than white Americans.
  • Deaths from lung scarring -- sarcoidosis -- are 16 times more common among blacks than among whites. The disease recently killed former NFL star Reggie White at age 43.
  • Despite lower tobacco exposure, black men are 50% more likely than white men to get lung cancer.
  • Strokes kill 4 times more 35- to 54-year-old black Americans than white Americans. Blacks have nearly twice the first-time stroke risk of whites.
  • Blacks develop high blood pressure earlier in life -- and with much higher blood pressure levels -- than whites. Nearly 42% of black men and more than 45% of black women aged 20 and older have high blood pressure.
  • Cancer treatment is equally successful for all races. Yet black men have a 40% higher cancer death rate than white men. African-American women have a 20% higher cancer death rate than white women.

Why?

Genes definitely play a role. So does the environment in which people live, socioeconomic status -- and, yes, racism, says Clyde W. Yancy, MD, associate dean of clinical affairs and medical director for heart failure/transplantation at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Yancy says that all humans have the same physiology, are vulnerable to the same illnesses, and respond to the same medicines. Naturally, diseases and responses to treatment do vary from person to person. But, he says, there are unique issues that affect black Americans.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Today on WebMD

blood pressure
Symptoms, causes, and more.
headache
Learn the causes.
 
Compressed heart
5 habits to change.
Mature man floating in pool, goggles on head
Exercises that help.
 
heart healthy living
ARTICLE
Erectile Dysfunction Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Bernstein Hypertension Affects Cardiac Risk
VIDEO
Compressed heart
Article
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
thumbnail for lowering choloesterol slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Low Blood Pressure
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections