The Health Risks Facing African Americans (and What to Do About Them)

African Americans of all ages are more likely to be obese than any other race and twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes. These are just a few of the many health disorders that have a larger impact on the African American community (due to a combination of genetics, disparities in health care and other factors). The important thing is to educate yourself about these various conditions and take preventive steps. Here’s what you need to know and what you can do to protect your health:

  1. Obesity: Sixty-three percent of African American men and 77 percent of African American women are obese (compared to 36 percent of the general population). Simple habits like exercising for 30 minutes a day, limiting red meat and consuming less sugar can reduce your risk for obesity.
  2. Diabetes: African Americans are 60 percent more likely to be diabetic than any other race, but you can reduce your risk with a few lifestyle changes. Regular exercise plays a key role in managing weight (a risk factor for diabetes) and eating more foods that are high in fiber such as fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains can also help prevent the disease.
  3. High blood pressure: Research has shown that African Americans have the highest rate of high blood pressure in the world and that it starts earlier and becomes more severe. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Regularly checking and monitoring your blood pressure can help you keep it under control. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables and cutting back on salt can help as well.
  4. Vitamin D deficiency: About 80 to 90 percent of African Americans live with a vitamin D deficiency, which has been linked to health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune disease. You can increase your levels of vitamin D by incorporating foods with vitamin D such as fish, milk and cereal or taking a vitamin D supplement.

If you’re concerned about any of these health conditions, talk to your doctor to find out what changes are right for you.

Photo credit: Army Medicine

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