The good news is that Blacks are living longer, as pre-COVID death rates declined about 25% over the previous decade. Even with those obvious advances, however, Black people are living with and often dying of complications from conditions like high blood pressure that are better managed in other communities. These outcomes are typically due to economic conditions and access issues that are more common in the Black community. Sometimes, there is a lack of trust because of unfamiliarity, or historical issues with the medical community. Often, they may not see a doctor simply because of cost.
Inside the Numbers
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death among Blacks, with increasing numbers among formerly atypical demographics like women and the young. When a chronic illness begins early, it can lead to earlier death. As it stands, Black people aged 18 to 49 are two times more likely to die from heart disease than whites, according to the CDC. African Americans between 35 and 64 are also 50% more likely to have high blood pressure. Black women are 60% more likely to suffer from hypertension than non-Hispanic white women. Black History Month’s gives us all a chance to reflect on the simple steps we can take to address heart disease. Your risk is heightened by high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, issues that also play a role in strokes.
Addressing the Problem
High blood pressure impacts Blacks more than any other race worldwide, and left untreated it can do permanent damage long before there are any debilitating symptoms. Hypertension is more severe among Black people, and also tends to develop earlier in their lives. Start by being aware. Check your blood pressure regularly, even if you don’t have a history of hypertension. Become familiar with your family’s medical history, since that can play a role in developing high blood pressure. If there’s a problem, seek medical attention immediately. Blacks are also disproportionately suffering from obesity. Nearly 70% of non-Hispanic Black people ages 20 and older, and more than 80% of women, are overweight. A healthy diet can help address this issue, along with a regimen of daily exercise. Similar advice is given to those dealing with diabetes, a major risk factor in both heart disease and stroke. Type 2 diabetes is preventable, and treatable — but you’ll need to develop a plan with your doctor.