We’ve got some good news; Black people are living longer. According to the CDC, the death rate has declined about 25% over 17 years, but new analysis is showing that younger African Americans are living with or dying of many conditions typically found in older white Americans.
Risk factors for chronic diseases may be “silent” or not diagnosed during your 20s, 30s or even 40s, so that’s why we, along with our friends at TYLENOL®, want to share information on two of the most prevalent conditions you should be aware of now, so you can proactively protect yourself —High Blood Pressure and Diabetes.
High Blood Pressure
More than 40% of non-Hispanic African American men and women have high blood pressure. It develops earlier in life and is usually more severe. Heart.org reports that it may be because of high rates of obesity and diabetes, but researchers have also found that there may be a gene that makes African Americans much more salt sensitive. In people who have this gene, as little as one extra gram (half a teaspoon) of salt could raise blood pressure as much as 5 mm Hg.
The best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get it checked and check it often. Once blood pressure is above 130 systolic or 80 diastolic, you may enter phase one of hypertension. If you find yourself with these numbers, there are ways you can manage your high blood pressure. Exercising and following a healthy diet that’s low in sodium are great ways to get started. You can also quit smoking and cut back on caffeine and alcohol. Be sure to talk with your doctor, as there are medications that can help control your numbers. And double check which over-the-counter medications may be right for your circumstances.
Non-Hispanic Black people are twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to die from diabetes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose (sugar) is too high. Insulin carries blood glucose to your cells to be used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin well, leaving too much glucose in your blood without reaching the cells. Over time it can cause health problems, like heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems, and kidney disease.
National Institutes of Health cites a study that found biological risk factors, including a combination of body mass index, waist measurement, fasting glucose levels, lipids, blood pressure, and lung function may be responsible for the higher rates of diabetes among Black people versus our white counterparts. If you’re diagnosed with diabetes, manage it with a well-balanced diet that’s centered around a good mix of starches, fruits, vegetables, proteins, and fats. Then take a look at carb counting, portion sizes, and adding in some exercise.
When diet and exercise are not enough, you may use insulin and other diabetes medications that are designed to lower your blood sugar levels. Their effectiveness may depend on the timing and size of the dose, so be sure to store it correctly and speak with your doctor if your blood sugar level drops too low or if it’s consistently too high; the dosage or timing may need to be adjusted. And lastly, be cautious with over-the-counter medications and do your research to find a recommended pain reliever. The American Heart Association identifies acetaminophen (TYLENOL®) as a pain relief option to try first for patients with, or at high risk, for cardiovascular disease, as it is not known to increase risks of heart attack, heart failure, or stroke like other pain relievers, like non- aspirin non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), can. Just be sure to check with your doctor before taking anything, so you know how it may impact your blood sugar level. Also talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about blood pressure or diabetes.
Click here to head back to the Johnson & Johnson Empowerment Health Equity Hub to learn more about how you can support a healthy, active lifestyle.