African Americans more Likely to Suffer from Disease


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African Americans more Likely to Suffer from Disease


African Americans have a higher likelihood of contracting cancer, heart disease and stroke. Statistics show that these complications affect a large number of African Americans than white Americans. This paper attempts to establish the credibility of this notion and the underlying factors that cause these disparities. Scholars have carried out studies attempting to explain the inherent factors that make African Americans vulnerable to the above dangerous diseases. Among the causative factors identified, include poverty and depression. Several scholars agree that African Americans are most likely to be depressed than White Americans hence making them vulnerable to stroke, heart disease and cancer. Most black Americans are poor this limits their access to medical facilities. Low income also increases the rate of worrying thus explaining the high depression rates that contribute to this trend.


African American adults have a higher chance of developing chronic diseases than whites and other races. Scholars have verified this trend and health records show the affirmative. This has posed a significant problem to health care professionals and policy makers. African Americans form about 12.8% of the population of the United States (Winham & Jones 2011). They thus constitute a considerable number of the US population. Finding out the underlying factors that make African Americans vulnerable to chronic diseases will assist health care professionals and policy makers alike develop strategies that will address the problem. This information is also important to those at risk since it will equip with the necessary knowledge to make changes to their lifestyles. A compilation of the risk factors from various scholars and researcher will create a rich body of knowledge for those who would like to learn more about this alarming trend.

Several factors make African Americans more vulnerable to strokes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Health statistics show that a large number of African Americans are vulnerable to stroke and heart disease. According to Philip B. Gorelick (20), the likelihood of dying from chronic diseases for African Americans is higher than that of white Americans. Gorelick says, “Excess mortality is a pervasive theme for in the African American Community” (20). Many scholars have attempted to verify this notion, and pinpoint the factors that make African Americans more vulnerable to chronic ailments.

Some scholars acknowledge that indeed African Americans are the more vulnerable ethnic community. Studies on the salient factors that increase the prevalence of stroke in African Americans have identified income of the affected as the most significant factor. Other studies suggest diet as a cause for these disparities while others show that access to medical facilities is a contributing factor. This paper shall analyze the findings of these researchers and present the causative factors identified in their works.

African Americans are Vulnerable

Research has shown African Americans to be facing a high risk of coronary disease, cancer and stroke. According to Bravata et al. (2006), risk factors exist across different races and among the three diseases and African Americans are more likely to suffer from stroke. Blacks have a high prevalence for the risk factors associated with stroke compared to whites. Bravara et al used records from the Third National Health and Nutritional Survey, comprising of blacks and whites who had a history with stroke. According to the study, blacks in the US had a high risk of contracting strokes that were more severe than whites were. They therefore concluded that the racial differences were reason enough for the disparities in stroke prevalence.

Blacks also have a higher prevalence for colon cancer. According to a study by O’Keefe et al. (2007), the prevalence of colorectal cancer on African Americans is even higher than that of native Africans. Colorectal cancer causes the highest cancer deaths in the United States. African Americans exhibit a high incidence for colorectal cancer compared to other ethnic groups within the USA. They have a 15% higher incidence and a 40% higher mortality than Caucasian Americans (O’Keefe 2007). The prevalence of colon cancer is however smaller in native Africans.

Cardiovascular infections are also incidentally higher in African Americans. Heart disease causes the highest deaths in the United States. Approximately 700000 people die every due to heart complications. This figure translates to about 30% of all annual deaths in the United States (Winham & Jones 2011). African Americans form just a small part of the US population (slightly over 10%), yet their prevalence for cardiovascular disease is three times higher than that of white Americans. According to Winham and Jones (2011), African Americans also have a higher mortality rate and are at greater risk of premature deaths due to heart disease compared to whites. Blacks therefore face many health risks when it comes to heart disease, stroke and cancer. This trend if not reversed will claim many lives. This is true considering it is not only the incidence of contracting the diseases that is high, but also the mortality and premature death due to these diseases.

Causes of High disease Incidence in African Americans

Dietary Intake

The high incidence of heart disease in African Americans is due to several factors. The dietary of African Americans is a major contributory factor to the prevalence of heart disease. High cholesterol in food increases the risk of heart disease in individuals. Saturated fats from animal products increase the amount of blood cholesterol hence increasing the risk of heart disease (Winham and Jones 2011). Tobacco smoking is also a high cause for cancer and chronic lung diseases. According to O’Keefe et al. (2007), African Americans’ diets comprised of more saturated fats and meat compared to native Africans and white Americans. In their study, O’Keefe et al concluded that meat and fat saturates were the cause for high prevalence of colon cancer in African Americans. They further explained by saying that the bacterial interactions with food particles from these food items were the ones that ultimately led to colorectal cancer.


The income of the individuals also played a significant role in the incidence of chronic disease. Most African Americans are relatively poor compared to their white counterparts. According to a study by Bravata et al. (2005), income was a major contributor to the contraction of stroke and stroke-related ailments in individuals. The low socio-economic status of the blacks meant they had inadequate access to health care. According to them, lack of medical insurance cover also increases the prevalence of stroke in African Americans. The low income of the African Americans renders them unable to pay for health care and vital health insurance. Bravara et al. (2005) also suggest in their findings that there is a high direct correlation between income and stroke and vascular disease. Individuals with less income are less likely to procure preventive treatment or treatment for minor ailments that may later lead to chronic diseases.

Philip Gorelick (1998) affirms this notion by saying that tradition has alienated black Americans from health insurance and medical cover. He also cites discrimination in terms of health benefits and treatment for black as some of the main causes for the prevalence of chronic disease (Gorelick 1998). He also cites the low income of African Americans as the reason why they cannot afford standard health care and access premium health-services provided by the government. This prevents an earlier diagnosis of the symptoms of chronic vascular diseases among black African patients. He further points out that if the incidence of stroke and other vascular diseases are to reduce, there is need to provide affordable health care and health insurance for affected individuals.

Other factors

Kaplan and Keil (1993) cite other factors that contribute to the increased incidence of chronic vascular diseases in African Americans. They present several socio-economic factors that contribute to the health disparity between whites and blacks. Education, living conditions and occupation, are significant causative factors in the incidence of chronic disease in African Americans. In living conditions, they suggest that living in a rental rather than owning a house and not owning a car increased the incidence of heart failure or stroke in an individual (Kaplan and Keil 1993). The employment status of an individual and the occupation they were in also contributed to the risk of chronic diseases. The socio-economic factors relate to the low-income factor and further reinforce the theory that the social status of an individual affects their incidence to chronic disease.


African Americans have a high incidence for cancer, heart disease and stroke. Several factors contribute to this situation. The low-income status, lack access to medical care, dietary factors and socio-economic factors contribute to the prevalence of chronic disease in African Americans. There is need to address the aforementioned factors and make sure that the socio-economic status of African Americans is uplifted while at the same time provide them with affordable medical care.


Bravata, D.M., Wells, C.K., Gulanski, B. & Kernan, W.N. (2005). Racial Disparities in Stroke Risk Factors. Stroke. (36): 1507-1511 Published online before print June 16, 2005, doi: 10.1161/?01. STR.0000170991.63594.b6Gorelick, P. (1998). Cerebrovascular Disease in African Americans. Stroke. (29). 2656-2664 doi: 10.1161/?01. STR.29.12.2656

Kaplan, G.A. & Keil, J.E. (1998). Socioeconomic factors and cardiovascular disease: a review of the literature. Circulation. 1993 (88): 1973-1998. doi: 10.1161/?01. CIR.88.4.1973

O’Keefe, S. J., Chung, D., Mahmoud, N. & Sepulveda, A. Why Do African Americans Get More Colon Cancer than Native Africans? J. Nutr. 137. (1). 175-182.

Winham, D. M. & Jones, M. K. (2011). Knowledge of young African American adults about heart disease: a cross-sectional survey. BMC Public Health. (11).248. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-248


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