Prevalent Health

African Americans have the highest health risks compared to all other minority groups, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Increased risk of disease, disability and early death rates are contributed to, in part, by a lack of health care and health education, along with genetics.

The following diseases and conditions are most prevalent among African Americans:


Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease in which swollen lung airways easily react to certain irritations, which leads to breathing difficulties. The seriousness of the disease varies. It could be an inconvenience for some, while for others, it may be a major problem that could cause death. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, asthma is seen more often in African Americans, affecting more than three million people. Asthma can be controlled, but there are necessary steps you must take.

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Cancer is a disease in which abnormal cells uncontrollably divide and spread throughout the body. Research conducted by the American Cancer Society shows that African Americans suffer the highest death rates of any racial group in the U.S. The most prevalent forms of cancer in the African American community include breast, lung, prostate and colorectal. An early cancer diagnosis plays a crucial role in successful treatment efforts.

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Diabetes is a metabolic disease that ultimately causes elevated levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. According to the American Diabetes Association, African Americans are nearly twice as likely to suffer from diabetes compared to Caucasians and are up to 5.6 times more likely to develop kidney disease. Diabetes, however, is manageable.

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High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood against the walls of the arteries. If left untreated for an extended period of time, the American Heart Association (AHA) states that high blood pressure can cause a heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, and a number of other health issues. In addition, AHA research shows that high blood pressure affects more than 40% of African Americans and develops earlier in life than with Caucasians. There are a number of simple steps you can take to manage high blood pressure.

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HIV is an immunodeficiency virus that progressively attacks the human immune system. HIV destroys T cells, which can leave the body without the ability to fight off infections and disease. When this happens, the infection has developed into AIDS. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans have an HIV infection rate that is 8 times higher than Caucasians, based on population size. While there is no cure for HIV, it can be controlled with proper medical care.

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Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can damage skin, joints and organs. With this disease, the body attacks its own healthy tissue and organs. African American women are three times more likely to develop lupus compared to Caucasian women, according to the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In fact, Lupus is more common in women of color in general. Men are most likely to get lupus before puberty or after age 50. Although lupus is a chronic disease, there are ways to achieve a better quality of life.

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Mental Health

According to information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African American adults are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress and to have feelings of sadness and hopelessness compared to adult Caucasians. Even with that statistic, only 31% of African Americans thought depression is a health problem. If you are suffering from a mental health issue, there are a wide range of treatments and support services available.

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Obesity is a condition in which a person has an excess of body fat than can negatively impact his or her health by increasing the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. Genetic and environmental factors can play a major role in a person’s susceptibility to becoming obese. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that nearly 40% of African American men and 60% of African American women 20 years of age or older are obese. From behavior changes to exercise, there are a number of ways to prevent and battle the condition.

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Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary disease that affects a person’s red blood cells, which are normally round and smooth and easily move through the blood stream. People with this disease have crescent-shaped cells that are hard and sticky, making it difficult for the cells to move as they should. Sickle cell disease can cause pain and organ damage. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute states that each year, 1 out of every 500 African Americans is born with sickle cell anemia. With the right knowledge and care, those suffering from the disease can live a productive life.

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A stroke occurs when blood flow is disrupted to the brain, either by a blood clot or a broken blood vessel. The National Stroke Association states that African Americans are the largest group to suffer from stroke. Also, African Americans are twice as likely to die from stroke, and tend to develop them at an earlier age compared to Caucasians. Higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity in African Americans are some of the factors believed to be behind the increased risk. Learn three important steps to help protect yourself against stroke.

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