Actual Facts: Here Are The Top Health Concerns For Black America

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Written by Ann Brown
Black America
Actual facts: Here are the top health concerns for Black America — from heart disease to infant mortality. Photo by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash

The covid-19 pandemic brought major awareness to health discrepancies and obstacles faced by Black America, ranging from stress-related illness and racism to toxic environmental factors and unequal access to healthcare.

People who live in distressed neighborhoods are more likely to focus on surviving day-to-day than on their health, according to Karen M. Dale, market president for AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia.

Add to that the stress of dealing with racial discrimination, and Africa Americans face anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, heart disease, weight gain, and memory and concentration impairment, the Mayo Clinic reported.

Economic status doesn’t provide immunity to the health challenges facing Black people. Even high-earning Black people can be more susceptible than well-off whites to a host of chronic diseases because of their race, research shows. 

Research published in 2016 in the journal Preventive Medicine found that racial disparities exist even for Black people who earn a six-figure salary, U.S. News & World Report reported. The study found disparities for Black people and other people of color who earn $175,000 a year compared to whites when it involves diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

Here are actual facts on the top health concerns for Black Americans. 

Heart disease

The most pressing health concern for African Americans is heart disease. Heart disease is the Number 1 killer of all Americans and stroke is also a leading cause of death, but the risks of getting those diseases are even higher for African Americans, according to the American Heart Association.

High blood pressure

One in three African Americans has high blood pressure. This is the highest rate in the world, according to Franciscan Health. High blood pressure or hypertension is often called “the silent killer.”

Why are Black Americans more prone to high blood pressure? Diet plays a role but so does heredity. 

“Research suggests that African Americans may inherit a gene from their parents that makes them more sensitive to salt, which can increase blood pressure. If you have this gene, an extra half teaspoon of salt a day can negatively impact blood pressure,” Franciscan Health reported.

Infant mortality

Non-Hispanic Black America has an infant mortality rate more than double that of non-Hispanic whites, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. The leading causes of infant death is low birth weight, congenital malformations, maternal complications and sudden infant death syndrome. African-American mothers are more than twice as likely than non-Hispanic white moms to receive late or no prenatal care, according to HHS.

Maternal mortality

Black women are more likely to die in childbirth than white women in the U.S., and again, this is true regardless of income. Two high-profile cases pointed to the lack of care given to Black women while giving birth. Both Serena Williams and Beyoncé publicly talked about how their medical concerns were brushed off while they were in childbirth  — and the complications that could have resulted in death if they had not been insistent. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Black women are three-to-four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. The U.S. maternal mortality rate is the worst of any industrialized country, according to a 2016 analysis published in the journal The Lancet.

“It’s basically a public health and human-rights emergency because it’s been estimated that a significant portion of these deaths could be prevented,” said Dr. Ana Langer, director of the Women and Health Initiative at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, according to the American Heart Association.

Obesity

Obesity is a major problem for Black adults and children, who are disproportionately affected by obesity. The rate of obesity is 22 percent for non-Hispanic Black girls and 21 percent for boys ages 6 to 11, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. For Black America between the ages of 12 and 19, the obesity rate is 24 percent for females and 21 percent for males, according to the CDC.

Among non-Hispanic Black people age 20 and older, 69 percent of men and 82 percent of women are overweight or obese.

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Diabetes

Black America is almost twice as likely as white to develop diabetes. “Even worse, African Americans are also more susceptible to disease complications like kidney failure and limb amputations,” Franciscan Health reported.