African Americans are affected by and die of many diseases, oftentimes more than other American groups. It is empowering to know that it does not have to be an African American’s destiny. It is possible to take your health into your own hands. Following are some of the issues that top the list.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder and affects the way our bodies digest food for energy. Basically, it is a disease that allows blood sugar levels to get too high and cause problems in many areas of the body, including skin, mouth, kidneys, heart, nerves, eyes and feet. It can even cause death. An estimated one in four African American women over the age of 55 has diabetes. It is easily controlled by maintaining a healthy weight and proper diet, regular physical activity, and limiting alcohol intake.
This is a chronic disease of the lung and airways that makes breathing difficult. Severe cases can be fatal. It also gives its victims a higher risk for osteoporosis. More than 2.3 Million African Americans are reported to have asthma and are three times more likely to die from it than other Americans. Controlling it can be as simple as limiting exposure to second-hand smoke, dust mites, mold and cockroaches.
- High Blood Pressure
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. Smoking, too much alcohol, salt, diabetes and obesity can aggravate this condition. The best way to prevent it is to avoid or quit smoking, limit salt and alcohol intake, and maintain a healthy weight.
HIV is the leading cause of death for African American women in several age groups. They are 15 times more likely to become infected than Caucasian American women. Still, one in four new cases in the U.S. are women. Poverty, promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases are all risk factors. Latex condoms are one way to prevent this disease.
The obesity rate is high in the African American community. African American women have the highest rate compared to other groups in the U.S. Although they cherish their uniquely curvy shapes, trying to find a balance between “thick” and fat is not that difficult. Losing weight lowers the risks of sleep apnea, arthritis and gallbladder disease, among others.
- Sickle Cell
This is a hereditary blood disorder that causes red blood cells to form in sickle shapes and break apart, which in turn causes anemia. The blood cells have a shorter life span and eventually clump up to the walls of blood vessels and block blood flow. Sickle cell anemia causes pain and sometimes permanent damage to the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, bones, and spleen. Acute pain is triggered by infection or dehydration. Ongoing treatment is possible, although there currently is no cure.
- Uterine Fibroids
Uterine Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in the womb. They can be as small as an apple seed or as big as a grapefruit, and grow one at a time or in clusters. Many fibroids are not accompanied by symptoms, although some can cause heavy bleeding, bloating in the lower stomach area, frequent urination, and lower back pain. African American women seem to get fibroids at younger ages than other groups.
Cancer is a disease of abnormal cell growth. There are more than 100 types, such as prostate cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer and breast cancer. African Americans can lower their risk of cancer by not smoking, becoming more physically active, and eating healthy foods.