Premature death rates due to treatable causes have been steadily increasing in recent years, says Common Wealth Fund. While those rates have dropped slightly in the African American community, African Americans are still more likely to die before the age of 75 than white and Hispanic populations in every state. To give a shocking look at just how disproportionately the Black community is impacted by preventable conditions, consider this: for every 100,000 white individuals, around 80 die of treatable conditions, for every 100,000 Hispanic individuals, around 70 will die of treatable conditions and for every 100,000 Black individuals, around 160 will die of treatable conditions.
It’s common to feel that certain activities that put one’s health first get in the way of living life. People get “too busy” to go to the doctor or to cook a healthy meal rather than pick up fast food. Maybe an afternoon at the movies takes priority over an afternoon spent on a hike. But it is important to remember that falling behind on routine screenings and seeing healthy lifestyle choices as optional can, as the studies reveal, take years off of someone’s life. And that is what truly gets in the way of living. Preventing a health issue is almost always less expensive, less painful and more successful than treating one. With that in mind, here are health conditions Americans often don’t look into until it’s too late.
The mortality rate associated with hypertension in Black women is nearly twice that of white women, says the National Library of Medicine. There are some uncontrollable factors that contribute to hypertension such as age, race and genetics. However, the American Heart Association reports interesting data that points to behavioral and environmental factors as the leading cause rather than genetics. The AHA says that hypertension is far more common in the Black population in America than in the Black population in Africa, which suggests that controllable factors, including diet, are more powerful than the uncontrollable like age or race. The AHA also reports that some of the reasons the Black community are more prone to hypertension than other races include a higher sensitivity to alcohol and higher retention rates of sodium. This suggests cutting back on alcohol consumption and sodium could be a first step to preventing this disease.
The Office on Women’s Health reports that 79 million Americans have some form of human papillomavirus also known as HPV, and that likely 80 percent of women will have at least one strain of HPV in their lifetime. One study published in the National Library of Medicine that looked at women ages 18 through 24 in Atlanta, Georgia suggested that as many as 42 percent of Black women in this age group might have HPV. The World Health Organization reports that HPV causes 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. However, both HPV and cervical cancer are highly preventable. The most current version of the HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9, has been found to be nearly 100 percent effective in preventing pre-cancers caused by all seven cancer-causing HPV types, says Cancer.org. And for those who do contract a strain of HPV, here’s another eye-opening fact: cervical cancer rates dropped substantially after the creation of the pap smear, says Princeton GYN. Between receiving the HPV vaccine and regular pap smears, HPV and its resulting cancers are both highly preventable.
Type 2 Diabetes
While Type 2 diabetes can be attributed in part to certain factors that are out of one’s control such as age, race and genetics, it is also the type of diabetes most associated with controllable lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise and smoking. The National Institute of Health reports that Black people are twice as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as whites are. Furthermore, Type 2 Diabetes accounts for 90 percent of diabetes cases. Because Type 2 diabetes is the kind most associated with lifestyle factor risks and is the most prevalent type, research would suggest that most cases of diabetes are preventable. To further demonstrate the impact of lifestyle on diabetes risk, extensive studies have found a correlation between inactivity and Type 2 diabetes regardless of BMI, says the National Library of Medicine.
Women come into this world at a higher risk for osteoporosis than men because women typically have a lower bone density to begin with, and dropping estrogen levels later in life make matters worse, says Hopkins Medicine. Although African American women actually have a lower incidence of low bone mass than white women, according to the National Library of Medicine, Black women are more likely to die after a hip fracture and have longer hospital stays following a fracture. So while osteoporosis related hospitalization might be less likely in Black women, it’s far more life altering or threatening when it does occur. However, osteoporosis is preventable. Several lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption, diet, smoking and exercise level impact risk of osteoporosis.
African Americans are more likely to develop periodontal disease and oral cancer than whites, and are more likely to receive a late diagnosis for both as well as face lower survival rates for oral cancer, says the Washington State Department of Health. However, periodontal disease is highly preventable. Good oral hygiene practices at home that include brushing ones teeth twice a day, for at least two minutes, as well as flossing daily, can greatly reduce the risk of periodontal disease. Following a dentist’s recommendation regarding teeth cleanings can also prevent periodontal disease.
The Black community is more likely to get a late diagnosis for lung cancer as well as die from lung cancer than whites, says Lung.org. It’s no surprise that smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. But what some might not realize is just how impactful it can be to quit smoking. Cancer.org reports that within just two weeks to three months of quitting, one’s circulation can improve and lung function can increase. Within one to two years of quitting, the risk of heart attack drops dramatically. Within just a few days of quitting, the carbon monoxide levels in one’s blood drop back to normal. So if you think that quitting after years of smoking won’t make a difference, think again.
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