Disparities in health between ethnicities is not a new phenomenon, it is as old as the enslavement of black, brown, and indigenous bodies. What some may not know is white American doctors were just as culpable in performing experiments upon enslaved bodies as the Nazis were upon Jewish bodies (Washington, 2006). The emerging field of epigenetics suggests the results of the brutalization of black, brown, and indigenous persons throughout history has caused these disparities (Menakem, 2017). This brings me to my main point of this blog: If you are young and black, please monitor your blood pressure.
Last week I went for an evaluation to become a living organ donor to donate my kidney. I disclose this not for altruistic reasons or for accolades but because of what I learned during the process when I asked what causes kidneys to fail and the reason people need kidney transplants. The nurse told me that high blood pressure and diabetes were the main causes. A fact that I confirmed:
“Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of chronic kidney disease (CKD). Your health care provider will look at your health history and may do tests to find out why you have kidney disease. The cause of your kidney disease may affect the type of treatment you receive” [Emphasis added]. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/causes
The nurse continued to educate me that this was more common in Blacks than whites. Another fact I confirmed:
“According to Census Bureau projections, the 2015 life expectancies at birth for blacks are 76.1 years, with 78.9 years for women, and 72.9 years for men. For non-Hispanic whites the projected life expectancies are 79.8 years, with 82.0 years for women, and 77.5 years for men. The death rate for African Americans is generally higher than whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, influenza and pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and homicide”[Emphasis added]. https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=3&lvlid=61
I was even more alarmed when the nurse informed me that hypertension was more prevalent in young black men then young white men. Yet, another fact I confirmed:
“However, the racial disparities in hypertension prevalence remained consistent over the time periods. These racial differences are evidence at all ages. Blacks are found to develop hypertension at an earlier age than whites. An assessment of US children aged 8–17 years found systolic blood pressures to be 2.9 mmHg and 1.6 mmHg higher in black boys and girls compared with age-matched white boys and girls. With the consistent racial differences at all ages it is evidence disparities in hypertension represent a lifetime consideration” [Emphasis added]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4108512/
In fact, the nurse told me one of the best things a young black man can do for his health is to check his blood pressure early, as it may save his life. And yes, he did specifically mention males, but I would suggest it is equally important for young black women to do the same.
Davis, S. (2015). Kidney failure [Photograph]. Flickr. (https://www.flickr.com/photos/128573122@N05/17337390301). CC by 2.0
Menakem, R. (2017). My grandmother’s hands: Racialized trauma and the pathways to mending our hearts and bodies. Central Recovery Press.
Washington, H. A. (2006). Medical apartheid: The dark history of medical experimentation on Black Americans from colonial times to the present. Harlem Moon .