CDC Finds Blacks Are Living Longer, But Chronic Illness Is Striking Earlier

(CN) – The death rate for black Americans has declined about 25 percent over the past 17 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta reported Tuesday.

And black Americans 65 and older were generally more robust in 2015, the end of the study period, than black seniors were at the start of the research in 1999.

But even with these improvements, a new analysis shows that younger blacks are now living with or dying of many conditions — stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes — typically found in white Americans at older ages.

The difference shows up in black Americans in their 20s, 30s, and 40s for diseases and causes of death, the researchers said.

Blacks ages 18-49 are two times as likely to die from heart disease than whites, the CDC said. In addition it found that blacks ages 35-64 years are 50 percent more likely to have high blood pressure than whites.

When diseases start early, they can lead to death earlier. Chronic diseases and some of their risk factors may be silent or not diagnosed during these early years.

The analysis found that health differences are often due to economic and social conditions that are more common among blacks than whites.

For example, African American adults are more likely to report they cannot see a doctor because of cost, the CDC said.

To address this and related issues, the federal government is collecting data to monitor and track health and conditions that may affect health, such as poverty and high school graduation rates.

But the CDC is encouraging a wide range of grass-roots efforts, including partnerships between scientific researchers and communities to assess diseases and conditions that affect some populations more than others; implementation of national initiatives, such as Million Hearts;  and creating healthy food environments and increase physical activity in underserved communities.

The CDC goes to say that community organizations can make a significant difference by training community health workers in underserved communities to educate and link people to free or low-cost services; by working across sectors to connect people with services that impact health, such as transportation and housing; and by providing assistance to get people to see their doctors, take prescribed medications, and go to follow-up appointments.

The bottom line, the CDC said, is that it is essential for government agencies, community organizations, health care providers and individuals to learn about social and economic conditions that may put some at higher risk than others for having a health problem, and to remove barriers to healthy living and quality health care.

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