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.
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...
Yet we're closer to the beginning of the fight than to the end. Some
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
African-Americans are three times more likely to die of asthma than white
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.
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.