Heart health risks for African American men

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019 | by

There are at least 160 million men in the United States and as many as 1 in 4 of them are at risk of dying from heart disease, which is one of the top health issues affecting men.


Of all U.S. men, African Americans have unique health concerns that include diabetes, hypertension and obesity, all of which increase the risk of stroke. Fortunately, many of these conditions are preventable with proper healthy lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise.


African American men may be resistant to necessary doctor visits

Without regular doctor visits, it’s more difficult to get to the root of health problems to properly treat them. Unfortunately, past abuses like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study—which unethically infected African-American men —may be at the root of general distrust of health care providers.


Men of all backgrounds resist getting the health care they need. In fact, surveys indicate that over 50% of men with medical conditions avoid going to the doctor and only 3 in 5 get regular checkups.


Fortunately, some surveys suggest that men’s attitudes may be changing. Positive changes in the way African-American men think about their health can make them more motivated to address the root causes of hypertension, diabetes and obesity, including their link to increased stroke risk.


Hypertension risk for African American men

African Americans have higher rates of hypertension compared to any other group in the world. Research suggests this may have a genetic origin, having to do with a stronger sensitivity to the effects of salt on the body. Hypertension can also be linked to other conditions like obesity.


Blood pressure guidelines: Less than 120 over less than 80


Unique risks of diabetes

Compared to the general population, as many as 13.2% of African Americans aged 20 or older are diagnosed with diabetes and are more likely to suffer from complications  like vision loss, kidney disease, and amputations resulting from peripheral artery disease. Factors increasing the likelihood of diabetes  include body mass index, waist measurement, glucose and lipid levels, blood pressure, and lung function. Like high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity are closely linked.


Obesity and African American men

Sixty-three percent of African-American men are considered obese, which significantly increases the risk of hypertension and diabetes. Along with high blood pressure and diabetes, obesity is an influencing factor in several diseases affecting men including heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and kidney diseases.


Heart disease and stroke: dangerous outcomes

Forty eight percent of African-American men have some form of heart disease, and African Americans have almost twice the risk of stroke and higher death rates from stroke events.


This may sound like grim news; however, it is important to recognize that high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity are all preventable with a healthy diet and exercise.


These conditions are preventable with lifestyle changes

Hypertension, diabetes and obesity are preventable with a combination of preventive health care, diet and exercise. Check out the table below for health tips based on disease state.


  1. Men, stay positive about hypertension and heart health
  2. Diabetes prevention: 5 tips for taking control


Prevention comes from attitude and action

Through education and positive motivation, new lifestyle habits – like eating right and staying active – can become a reality. Sometimes, getting (and staying) motivated can be difficult, but here are a few tips to keep the momentum:

  • Make an agreement with your family.
  • Start a challenge.
    • Team up with friends, family, or coworkers to motivate one another to get checkups and maintain healthy habits.
  • Visualize the results.