Top health concerns impacting Black men and screening guidelines

June 20, 2019

Black men continue to endure far worse health statistics than any other racial group. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), Black men maintain lower life expectancy than Black women, white men, and white women. Similar to all racial groups, the overall life expectancy has increased over the past century, but despite this, Black men are still coming in last place when it comes to taking care of their health. What are some of the reasons for this?

There are several factors that can affect why some don’t follow up on their health, don’t go to the doctor as often as necessary, or are having health issues overall. Lack of economic resources, lack of health insurance, limited access to care, food deserts, poverty, poor health literacy/health education, environmental factors, genetics, and cultural barriers/ factors can play huge roles into why some Black men are suffering these poor health statistics at such alarming rates.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the leading causes of death (LCOD) for Black males in the United States as of 2015 are as follows:

1. Heart disease (23.9 percent of total deaths)
2. Cancer (21.4 percent of total deaths)
3. Unintentional injuries (6.5 percent of total deaths)
4. Stroke (4.9 percent of total deaths)
5. Homicide (4.9 percent of total deaths)
6. Diabetes (4.2 percent of total deaths)
7. Chronic lower respiratory diseases (3.2 percent of total deaths)
8. Kidney disease (2.7 percent of total deaths)
9. Septicemia (1.9 percent of total deaths)
10. Influenza and pneumonia (1.7 percent of total deaths)

The leading causes of death within Black men shift for different age groups, and you can read more about these here. What can be done to combat some of these leading causes of death? Preventative care needs to be a priority.

Many of these LCOD death aren’t necessarily a death sentence if they are prevented before onset or maintained once the individual is aware of the health issue. Often times, people can die from diseases and health issues that are diagnosed too late or aren’t being managed properly.

Regular exercise and healthy food options can help reduce some of the mentioned health risks. Let’s look more closely into a few of these LCOD to see what preventative measures can be taken to reduce these health risks.

Heart disease

With heart disease being the number one killer in African Americans and stroke also being a LCOD, we must take a look into how we can reduce the incidence rates of these two health issues in African American men.

Regular visits to a medical professional can help to reduce the death rates for heart disease. Obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure are also risk factors associated with heart disease. Once identified, these health issues are manageable so that they do not spiral out of control. Checking blood pressure regularly and monitoring any changes in blood pressure could save a life.

When looking at obesity, healthy food choices can help dramatically reduce weight in an individual. Eating more veggies, reduction in red meat, and less consumption of overall calories can help reduce risk for obesity.

Lastly, diabetes is the third risk factor for heart disease. Understanding family history, warning signs, and regular visits to a medical professional can help identify and manage complications related to diabetes. Also, regular exercise can play a role in reducing the risks associated with diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Cancer

When it comes to cancer, African Americans are dying at the highest rate and have the shortest survival in comparison to any other racial groups according to the American Cancer Society. What exactly does this mean?

It means that we are being diagnosed with cancer much later in its progression and because of this, our chances of survival are reduced. The cancers that commonly affect men include skin, prostate, lung, and colon cancers. Prostate cancer affects African American men at a much higher rate than any other group for unknown reasons.

It is recommended that African American men get tested for prostate cancer as early as 45 years old. Essentially knowing family history and understanding other risk factors associated with cancer can help to identify any cancer in the body early and save a life.

Kidney failure

African Americans and Blacks also have extremely high rates of kidney disease and this is due to high incidence rates of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Identifying and being knowledgeable about these risk factors is crucial in preventing and managing kidney disease.

Medical professionals can test a patient’s kidney function, blood sugar, urine protein, and blood pressure to help identify kidney disease, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

It is important to take charge of your health. Make sure to see a medical professional regularly and understand your personal family history and risks that you may have for any diseases. In addition to this, create a healthy lifestyle for yourself in order to live a longer life. Remember, health is wealth!