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COVID-19: 5 Reasons Why African-Americans Are More At Risk

Almost 60% of African-American deaths each year can be contributed to heart disease, cancer, strokes, diabetes, and respiratory illnesses. These are the top 5 leading causes of death for African-Americans. Those same illnesses may be associated with what makes African-Americans more vulnerable to being severely affected by the coronavirus.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention people at increased risk for critical illness include people of all age groups with underlying medical circumstances. The CDC doesn’t specify how COVID-19 affects racial groups or that one particular racial group is more vulnerable over the other but there are, however, some key circumstances associated with the coronavirus that do make African-Americans more at risk. A comparison of the CDC’s list of groups at higher risk and statistical data from other reliable health organizations reveals that African-Americans are disproportionately affected by the majority of medical dispositions listed.


Except for people 65 years and older and those living in a nursing home or long-term care facility, the list begins with people with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma. After researching racial statistics on chronic respiratory illnesses we found that it's very much recorded that asthma rates are higher among black individuals. 10.1% of African-Americans versus only 8.1% of whites in 2017, as indicated by the CDC.

Concerning asthma-related fatalities, the racial divide is considerably wider. Asthma-related causes were 3 times more likely to lead to death in African-American adults than whites in 2014, as per the US Office of Minority Health. African-American kids had a fatality rate 10 times higher than whites in 2015.

Other conditions associated with chronic respiratory illnesses include emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary hypertension, and lung diseases associated with work. Cigarette and cigar smoking accounts for about 80% of those illnesses; according to the CDC.

Next on the CDC’s list is people who have serious heart conditions. According to the American Heart Association and CDC, cardiovascular disease is the No.1 assassin for all Americans; the primary cause of one-third of all US adult deaths. The term “cardiovascular disease” is used to describe several disorders of the heart and blood vessels such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure. The dangers of getting these illnesses are much higher for African-Americans who only comprise 13% of the US population. African-Americans have a 3 times greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease and 2 times greater risk of cardiovascular disease-related deaths than that of whites and other ethnic groups. Stroke risk among African-Americans is 3 times higher than that of Whites.

The third group on the CDC’s list of medical dispositions are people who are immunocompromised. It even goes on to list conditions that could contribute to a not so healthy immune system. Smoking is one of those conditions and it may stick out more than the others because tobacco use is a primary contributor to the 3 leading causes of death among African-Americans: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.

African-Americans are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than whites and have the highest death rate and shortest survival of any racial and ethnic group in the US for most cancers.

African-Americans who smoke cigarettes are 2 times likely to have a stroke than those who avoid tobacco, and those between ages 45 and 64 have 2-3 times the risk of stroke compared to whites as indicated by the American Heart Association.

Nicotine increases blood sugar levels furthering complications with those already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and contributes to kidney failure. Furthermore, vaping and smoking increase the likeliness of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by 30% to 40%.

Moving on with the CDC’s list, obesity is also a risk factor and according to a 2018 study by the CDC African-American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese. Opposed to other racial groups in the U.S. approximately, 4 in 5 black women are overweight or obese. Obese individuals are at higher risk of having other chronic health conditions, such as asthma, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, all risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The same leading causes of deaths among blacks.

Then there’s HIV/AIDS. African-Americans account for a higher proportion of new HIV diagnoses and people with HIV, as opposed to other ethnicities. In 2018, blacks accounted for 42% of the 37,832 new diagnoses in the US. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. Not being able to create enough antibodies makes the body vulnerable to other illnesses.

So black people are not only disproportionately affected by COVID-19, it’s just those black people disproportionately represent these high-risk classifications of people with underlying medical disadvantages. So, when Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General asked individuals from the black and Latino community to cease alcohol consumption, drug use and tobacco he was spot on. His statement wasn't racial profiling, but rather stating that those things compromise a person's immune system.