Get the facts on minority health

The Annual Minority Health Fair is designed to provide an opportunity to learn more about issues that might relate to your health — or the health of those around you! Read on to learn more about the unique health challenges minorities face.

Our race and ethnicity play a role in determining our risk for certain health conditions. Minorities, including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans, often have different risk factors than their Caucasian counterparts.

Let’s take a look at a few key health conditions common among minorities:

1. Heart disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for all American men and women. But the risk is higher among African Americans. In fact, deaths due to cardiovascular disease are one-third higher among African Americans than the rest of the U.S. population.

In addition, African Americans are more likely to have a stroke — and die from a stroke. Hispanic Americans are also at an increased risk.

While the reason for this higher risk isn’t certain, many in this population have uncontrolled high blood pressure, which significantly increases a person’s risk of both heart disease and stroke.

Checking your blood pressure regularly and taking steps to maintain normal blood pressure (120/80 mmHg or less) are key ways to reduce your risk.

2. Cancer. Minorities experience higher rates of cancer, and researchers associate that higher risk with a lack of access to preventive health care, including cancer screenings.

While cancer death rates have decreased steadily since the 1990s, African Americans have the highest death rate among ethnic groups in the United States for most types of cancer. They’re at a particular risk for prostate, breast, lung and colorectal cancers.

Cancer is also a leading cause of death among Hispanic Americans, accounting for more than 20 percent of all deaths. Researchers have found that this group has a higher risk of developing cancers associated with infectious agents, including liver, stomach and cervix cancers. Cancer risk among Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders is similar to that of Hispanic Americans.

To help reduce your risk of developing cancer, it’s important to practice healthy lifestyle habits — exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables, don’t smoke and get quality sleep. But the most important thing you can do is to have regular checkups, along with age-appropriate screenings, such as mammograms, Pap smears and colonoscopies.

3. Diabetes. All minorities have a higher risk of developing diabetes than Caucasians. They’re also at a higher risk of developing serious complications of the disease, including limb amputations, retinopathy and kidney failure.

Among adults over age 20, 15.9 percent of Native Americans, 13.2 percent of African Americans, 12.8 percent of Hispanic Americans and 9 percent of Asian Americans will be diagnosed with diabetes — compared with only 7.6 percent of Caucasians.

In fact, half of all African-American women and Hispanic-American men and women will develop Type 2 diabetes in their lifetime.

To limit your risk of developing diabetes, aim to exercise regularly, eat less fat and fewer calories, and maintain a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, losing even 5 percent of your body weight can help.

4. Uterine fibroids. Leiomyomas, more commonly called uterine fibroids, are the most common non-cancerous (benign) tumors in women. Between 60% and 80% of women will develop uterine fibroids before menopause, but they occur most commonly in African-American women. Uterine fibroids aren’t associated with an increased risk of uterine cancer and almost never develop into cancer.

Uterine fibroids are typically small and asymptomatic but, depending on their location, number, and size, they can sometimes lead to symptoms including abnormal bleeding, abdominal and pelvic pain or pressure, irregular bowel and bladder function, infertility, and painful periods.

Diagnosis is done with a pelvic exam and ultrasound. Surgery is only required in about 20% of cases. Minimally invasive surgery can be used to remove the fibroids themselves from the uterus, but a minimally invasive hysterectomy can be performed if symptoms are serious or if a woman has completed childbearing.

Have you marked your annual checkup off this year’s to-do list? If not, schedule one today! Find a doctor here.