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Health Disparities that Affect the African American Community

Public health is one of the primary concerns of government, and understanding the types and reasons behind health disparities in various communities and demographics is vital. This research paper explores the two health disparities that disproportionately affect the African American community. If you’re looking to buy essays online, please visit the Ultius homepage for more information.

African-American community health disparities

For decades, health officials have known that some health disparities are more common in certain racial groups within the United States than others. As a result, these racial groups have higher incidences of acquiring these diseases and ailments. Two health disparities that affect the African American community are heart disease and diabetes. Heart disease and diabetes are the leading causes of death in African Americans due to the high number of risk factors for the disease and the lack of resources to help treat these health disparities.

African-Americans and Heart disease

The first health disparity experienced by the African American community is heart disease. Medline Plus (2013) informed that

“heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, which are the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself.”

Heart disease can be traced to high levels of cholesterol in the body. When a person has high levels of cholesterol in the body, it decreases the amount of blood and oxygen that flow to the heart. Additionally, the American Heart Association (2013) explained that heart disease is also typically caused by high blood pressure, as it can “cause permanent damage to the heart.” As a result, when a heart becomes damaged and blood vessels to the heart are blocked, the person is at risk for having a heart attack.

There are several risk factors for becoming inflicted with the health disparity, heart disease. These risk factors include smoking, having high cholesterol, and having high blood pressure. Interestingly, new research has revealed that a genetic mutation may also increase an African American’s risk for developing heart disease. Medline Plus (2013) explained that

“the mutation in the ApoE gene is linked to increased levels of triglycerides, and this gene mutation is common in Africans and people of African descent worldwide.”

As a result, African Americans have an increased risk for developing heart disease, and this risk factor may explain the high incidences of heart disease in the African American community.

The incidence and prevalence of heart disease in the African American community is alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one killer of African American men and women. In 2008, 24.5% of African Americans died from heart disease (CDC, 2013). The high rates of deaths can be linked to blood pressure levels in African Americans. The American Heart Association (2013) found that

“the prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans is the highest in the world.”

Unfortunately, if heart disease does not contribute to the death of members of this population, then diabetes can since it is also a deadly disease that affects millions of African Americans.

African-Americans and diabetes

Additionally, the second health disparity that affects members of the African American community each year is diabetes. According to the CDC (2013), diabetes is a disease in which

“blood glucose levels are above normal due to the fact that the body does not make enough insulin to help glucose get into the cells in the human body.”

As a result, a person can experience a variety of complications from the disease. These complications include

  • heart disease
  • blindness, kidney failure
  • lower-extremity amputations (CDC, 2013).

However, the health problems associated with diabetes can be controlled depending on the type of diabetes.

Members of the African American community can have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is heredity, and the condition is caused by an autoimmune disease that attacks the pancreas, which makes insulin in the human body. In contrast, Type 2 diabetes is commonly caused by obesity, which is the number one risk factor for acquiring this health disparity. The American Heart Association (2013) found that

“African Americans are disproportionately affected by obesity, as 63 percent of black men and 77 percent of black women are overweight. Unfortunately, if an African American does not develop diabetes from an autoimmune disease or from being overweight, the disease may be caused by a genetic mutation of  the R145C variant of the ApoE gene, which is also responsible for causing heart disease” (American Heart Association, 2013).

As a result, these risk factors have made diabetes a highly prevalent disease in the African American community.

Diabetes has been known to be a leading cause of death in African Americans. The CDC (2013) found that diabetes is the fourth contributing factor in the deaths of members of this population, as 4.9 million blacks have the disease. Specifically,

“15 percent of all African Americans age 20 and older have one type of diabetes” (American Heart Association, 2013).

Therefore, the high prevalence of this disease makes it a deadly health disparity for the African American community.

When examining the rates of heart disease and diabetes in the African American community, one can posit that socioeconomic and cultural factors contribute to the prevalence of these two health disparities. First, socioeconomic factors affect the rates of heart disease and diabetes in African Americans since a majority of African Americans do not have access to health insurance which is essential for maintaining these conditions.

This may be a due to the fact that a high number of African Americans live below the poverty line. Also, cultural influences increase the risk of acquiring heart disease and diabetes since many foods in this community have high levels of carbohydrates and meats that are known to increase cholesterol levels (American Heart Association, 2013). Consequently, if an African American has limited access to health insurance and eats a diet that lacks vegetables and healthy foods, they have a higher chance of dying from either heart disease or diabetes.

Currently, policies that correlate to heart disease and diabetes involve treating the health disparities once a person is diagnosed with one of them. These treatments include exercising to lower one’s weight and cholesterol levels to prevent heart disease, and taking insulin to keep glucose levels within a safe range if a person is diagnosed with diabetes (American Heart Association, 2013). However, these policies are not enough when many African Americans do not have health insurance. Therefore, more polices are needed to allow African Americans to obtain treatment for their medical conditions at little to no cost in order to prevent the high rates of deaths in this population due to these health disparities.

Additionally, when an African American is diagnosed with heart disease or diabetes, most resources are educational materials that explain the causes of the health disparities and how to treat the illnesses. Furthermore, some programs are now focusing on curing the diseases, such as receiving a pancreas transplant if a person is suffering from diabetes or undergoing procedures to clean out blocked arteries to eliminate heart disease (CDC, 2013). Unfortunately, these programs will not help African Americans if they do not have access to good specialists and health insurance. Therefore, clinics that provide free treatment, doctor visits, and surgeries should be implemented to help the African American community deal with these disparities.


To conclude, heart disease and diabetes are the leading causes of death in African Americans due to the high number of risk factors for the disease and the lack of resources to help treat these health disparities. Heart disease and diabetes are responsible for killing millions of African Americans each year, and the high prevalence of these diseases can be linked to a lack of health insurance and cultural foods that are rich in cholesterol and fats. Nonetheless, if policies and programs were implemented that provided free treatment for these conditions, the rate of deaths due to these disparities could dramatically decrease.


American Heart Association. (2013). African-Americans and heart disease, stroke. Retrieved from Americans-and-Heart-Disease_UCM_444863_Article.jsp

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2013). Minority health: Black or African American populations. Retrieved from

Medline Plus. (2013). African American health. Retrieved from

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