Several health disparities exist between African Americans and white Americans. Doctors are seeing diseases that you’d expect to see in older patients—heart disease, diabetes, stroke—in relatively young African Americans. While genetics may play a role in certain instances, socioeconomic factors have a significant impact on how African Americans are able to prevent and treat certain conditions.
In general, diseases of the heart are the No. 1 killer of Americans. However, while the rate of heart disease has been steadily decreasing among white Americans since the 1970s, the rates are not decreasing as sharply among African Americans.
The data tells us that the issue isn’t that more African Americans have heart disease, but that this group’s chances of surviving a cardiovascular event aren’t as high as in other populations. In fact, African Americans aged 18 to 49 are two times more likely to die of heart disease than other Americans. The Affordable Care Act, which was passed by Congress in 2010, expanded access to healthcare insurance to all Americans. It appears that this access has improved cardiac care for African Americans, but a disparity still exists. In general, this population doesn’t receive referrals for potentially lifesaving treatments like cardiac catheterizations in a timely manner, leading to worse outcomes than their Caucasian counterparts.