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How African Americans Can Reduce Their Health Risks

Feb 21, 2024

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How African Americans Can Reduce Their Health Risks

Published by Claudia Giunta.

February recognizes Black History Month and is a perfect opportunity to talk to your doctor about health concerns and learn about the health risks that disproportionately face the African American community. Several health disparities exist between African Americans and Caucasian Americans. Diseases that you’d expect to see in older patients (heart disease, diabetes, stroke) are commonly seen in young African Americans. So what are the causes? While genetics may play a role in certain cases, socioeconomic factors also play a role in how African Americans can prevent and treat certain conditions.

Here are the health facts for African Americans: 

  • African Americans aged 18-49 are 2 times as likely to die from heart disease than Caucasians.  
  • African Americans aged 35-64 are 50% more likely to have high blood pressure than Caucasians.
  • African Americans are more likely to die at an early age from all causes.
  • African American adults are more likely to report they cannot see a doctor because of cost.

The African American community should be aware of serious health risks that statistically affect them at higher rates. Additionally, it’s imperative that everyone, no matter their race, understands health disparities to raise awareness and increase resources. If you think you may be at risk of certain diseases and health conditions, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician as soon as possible. 

Nova Vita Solutions

Whether you are concerned about a family history of disease, are curious about your blood levels, or looking for ways to manage your weight, Nova Vita’s professionals are here to help. Our curated lab panels, IV Vitamin infusions, and weight management programs were designed to help each patient prioritize their health. Our weight management programs will help you reach your target weight to lower your chances of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Nova Vita Wellness Centers routinely sponsor HerScan breast ultrasound screenings that are capable of detecting cancers that cannot be found by mammography and physical exams alone. Additionally, our blood panels will detect any low nutrient levels and detect blood levels that put you at risk for chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 

Health Concerns Affecting African Americans 

African Americans are affected by many health conditions at a higher rate than other populations. By being aware of these conditions, you can talk to your doctor about any personal risk factors, explore accessible resources, and learn how to proactively manage and lower your risks. 

The following conditions statistically affect the African American population more than others:

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans with one person dying every 33 seconds from cardiovascular disease in the U.S. While the rate of heart disease has decreased steadily among Caucasian Americans, the rates have not decreased as significantly among the African American population. African Americans are more likely to suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity, all of which increase their risk of developing heart disease. 

Both historical and systemic factors play a role in heart disease statistics among the African American population. These factors may include where a person was born and lives, access to health care, lack of educational resources, and access to healthy foods. Understanding the risks and taking simple steps to address any risks is essential to prevent and beat heart disease. 

High Blood Pressure

Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a particularly prevalent condition for African Americans. One in three African Americans suffers from high blood pressure, and it can be difficult to manage without access to quality care. Additionally, African Americans typically develop high blood pressure earlier in life and irreversible damage can occur before any obvious signs or symptoms. High blood pressure increases your risk of stroke, heart attacks, kidney failure, and blindness. 

High blood pressure can be managed with diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medication. Make sure you are checking your blood pressure routinely at a local pharmacy or visiting a clinic. If possible, talk to your physician about controlling your blood pressure at your next appointment. If you’re located in a rural area, the Rural Health Clinic (RHC) Program helps increase access to primary care for people within rural communities.


African Americans are twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes (high blood sugar) as non-Hispanic Caucasians. They are also more likely to suffer further complications from diabetes, such as end-stage renal disease. Diabetes can lead to many serious complications, including chronic kidney disease, heart disease, nerve damage, vascular disease, and vision and hearing issues. 

Diabetes can be treated and controlled more easily when diagnosed early. Screening for diabetes can be performed with a simple blood lab test. To help with diabetes, losing weight, eating healthier, staying active, and taking certain medications may be advised. Be consistent with your medical appointments to manage your health best and consider speaking with a nutritionist or dietician for further assistance, many insurances are now covering these services.


While cancer is the second leading cause of death for all races, African-American men are 50% more likely than Caucasian men to get lung cancer. Additionally, African American women have a 40% higher breast cancer death rate than Caucasian women. 

Inadequate access to health care affects these statistics. By not getting screened for cancer regularly or not getting referred to cancer treatments early, the disease progresses faster. When diagnosed early, a person can increase their cancer survival rate by up to 80 percent. Explore your local health centers and free clinics for accessible healthcare resources. For those who have served in the military, you may be eligible for medical care prescription coverage through a Veterans Affairs facility. 

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Cell Disease is a rare form of red blood cell disorder that occurs in approximately 1 out of every 265 African Americans. Someone with Sickle Cell Disease has cells that become sticky and resemble a sickle, a C-shaped cutting tool. Sickle cells die quicker than healthy cells, creating a constant shortage of red blood cells, which is called anemia. Sickle cells also block blood flow because they get stuck throughout blood vessels. This can cause pain, infection, kidney disease, breathing difficulties, chest pain, stroke, and other serious life-threatening conditions.

As of now, the only cure for Sickle Cell Disease is a bone marrow or stem cell transplant that collects healthy red cells from someone and transfers them to a person with the disease. These healthy cells cause bone marrow to continue to create new, healthy cells. 

Lowering Risk Factors

Some risk factors such as family history may be out of your control, but others can be managed through a healthier lifestyle. Consider the following practices to decrease your risk of certain health concerns:

Maintaining a healthy weight: Weight plays a major role in your health. Being overweight or obese increases your likelihood of developing heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Aim to fill your diet with fruits, veggies, and whole grains, and consider a personalized weight management program that helps you take control of your health.

Regular health check-ups: Routine health screenings and check-ups can help detect and manage chronic diseases early on. Early detection is key for better treatment outcomes. Explore your local and state public health for guidance on accessible healthcare resources.

Regular physical activity: Your recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week could include brisk walking, swimming, hiking, biking, dancing, and more. If you don’t exercise often, start slow and increase the length and intensity of your exercise over time. 

Education and advocacy: Raising awareness about health disparities and engaging in conversations that address these issues will increase awareness and drive positive change. 

The Bottom Line

All Americans, regardless of their race, should take ownership of their health. African Americans who are at a higher risk of certain health issues should be aware of these conditions and talk to a doctor about lowering their risks. By getting routine preventive health screenings like blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol checks, age-related screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies, and regular physical exams, you’re taking steps to detect and treat diseases early on. If these screenings are not easily accessible, implementing healthy lifestyle changes to improve your overall health is imperative to your longevity. By embracing preventive measures and increasing awareness of health disparities, we can encourage all individuals to prioritize their health.