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7 Serious Health Concerns Affecting African Americans

Posted November 25, 2019 by Edward A Pankey, MD


According to the CDC, the death rate for African Americans has declined more than 25 percent over the past 17 years, especially for those 65-years and older. However, new research shows younger African Americans are living with or dying from diseases most often found in Caucasians much later in life.

The African American community should be aware of a few serious health concerns that statistically affect them at higher rates. If you think you may be at risk, talk to your primary care physician about the following:


  1. Cancer: Despite recent advances in cancer treatment, there remains a large racial disparity.  African American men are 35 percent more likely to die from colon or prostate cancer than Caucasian men and African American women are 18 percent more likely to die from breast cancer. Early cancer screening as part of regular checkups is an important component of reversing these trends. When diagnosed early a person can increase their survival rate by up to 80 percent.  Ask your Summa Health physician about which cancer screening is appropriate for you.
  2. Diabetes: Over 3 million African Americans have diabetes, but more than 33 percent do not know they have it. African Americans suffer higher rates of severe complications, including vision loss, kidney failure resulting in dialysis, loss of limbs, and death. When diagnosed early, diabetes can be treated and controlled.  Screening for diabetes can easily be performed with a simple blood test.  Ask your Summa Health physician to be screened for diabetes at your next appointment.
  3. High Blood Pressure: African Americans have the highest prevalence of high blood pressure in the entire world. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, increases your risk of stroke, heart attacks, kidney failure, and blindness.  Known as ‘the silent killer’ irreversible damage occurs before you notice any signs or symptoms. High blood pressure can be easily treated with a change in diet and lifestyle and medication. Ask your Summa Health physician about controlling your blood pressure at your next appointment.
  4. Heart Disease: High blood pressure and diabetes are important risk factors for developing heart disease.   It is the number one killer of all Americans.  African Americans are more likely to suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity which puts them at increased risk of developing heart disease. Ask your Summa Health physician about what you can do to prevent developing heart disease.
  5. Asthma and other respiratory diseases: African Americans suffer from asthma more than any other racial or ethnic group in America and are three times as likely to die from it. African American men are 50 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than Caucasian men; and three times as likely to develop a potentially deadly, lung-scarring disease called sarcoidosis. 
  6. Sickle Cell Anemia: Is a common blood condition found in some African
    Americans.  The more severe forms of this disease can result in severe pain syndromes and other complications.  Talk to your Summa Health physician about developing a treatment plan to help minimize and prevent these complications.
  7. Cigarette Smoking: African Americans suffer the complications of cigarette smoking including lung cancer, heart disease, and death more so than Caucasians.  Cessation of cigarette smoking is the single most effective change you can make to help prevent chronic disease.  There are many tools available to help you stop smoking.  Ask your Summa Health physician about which tool is right for you.


We at Summa Health are committed to providing education and support for people with chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. We have engaged our team to provide evidenced based educational programs with the patients’ needs in mind. Summa Health works with each patient, focusing on wellness through regular primary care visits and health screenings and personalized specialty care.

Call 800.237.8662 to schedule an appointment today.

Edward A Pankey, MD

Edward A Pankey, MD

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