Recent data shows that African Americans are hit harder by COVID-19 than any other group. One of the reasons for this is the high rate of heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions among African Americans. All of these conditions are risk factors for more severe cases of COVID-19 and death.
Here's what we know:
The COVID-19 vaccines are our best protection against the virus, but vaccination rates are lower in the African American community, especially in people ages 20 to 44. It's normal to have questions about the vaccine. For African Americans, those questions are rooted in an understandable distrust of the medical community because of race-based inequities in health care outcomes and a history of systemic racism.
But it's important to know that studies and health experts, including many African American physicians, agree that the COVID-19 vaccines are:
The African American community is facing urgent health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. These conditions exist at alarming rates and impact daily quality of life and longevity. More alarming, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity tend to occur together, so individuals who develop one of these conditions often develop another. The good news is there are steps you can take to prevent and manage chronic conditions.
Diabetes. African Americans are much more likely to be diagnosed with – and die from – diabetes than their white counterparts. Individuals with diabetes can experience serious health complications, including cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye damage, skin conditions, depression, and more. Diabetes is hereditary, so those with a family history of the condition need to be more careful and mindful about prevention.
Heart disease. The leading cause of death in African Americans is heart disease. In fact, the rate of high blood pressure in African Americans is the highest in the world! High blood pressure can lead to a range of problems, including heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure. High blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease.
Obesity. Obesity is calculated using body mass index (BMI), a measure of body fat based on height and weight. People are considered obese if they have a BMI of 30.0 or higher. African American women have higher rates of obesity or being above average weight than other groups in the United States. Being obese increases the risk of many serious health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and early death.
Healthy lifestyle changes can help prevent or manage these chronic health conditions.
Eat well. A healthy diet is key for diabetes prevention and effectively controlling your blood sugar. Read how a change in nutrition helped one woman take control of a prediabetes diagnosis. Eating healthy includes eating more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight and control heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure.
Get active. Regular exercise (30 minutes a day, five days a week), such as walking, water aerobics, dancing, and biking, can help prevent heart disease. It can also help you manage your weight and improve blood sugar levels.
Keep your heart healthy. Limiting salt and saturated fat, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce your risk for heart disease.
Talk to a doctor. There are screenings available for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other conditions. Independence members can locate a provider here: