Adding to the mix is sickle cell anemia and sickle cell disease, a rare blood disorder that usually affects people of African descent. The American Heart Association says, because sickle cells can clump together and clog blood vessels, an inherited condition is also a risk factor for stroke.
But there is more to genetics. Lloyd-Jones shows that so-called social determinants of health – or conditions that shape the environment in which you live – have a lot to do with stroke variance, too. a 2022 Report of the Kaiser Family Foundation found that blacks fare worse than their white peers across many social determinants, including personal transportation and access to food.
“We can outperform genetics if we have a healthy food supply, or if we allow people to have healthy foods.” [and] For health care,” says Lloyd-Jones. “It doesn’t have to work this way.”
Healthy food wasn’t always available to Mark Moore, a stroke survivor, author and now philanthropist living in Northern Virginia. Growing up with seven siblings in Jamaica, Queens, New York, Moore’s parents never drove, and the nearest grocery store was poorly stocked.
“The local store we walked into wasn’t full of fresh fruits and vegetables. They had honey cakes and Ring Dings and all these kinds of things, so that’s what we bought. If you eat that kind of food, you’re more likely to get high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity” — all factors that increase the risk of stroke, says Moore, who had two strokes in 2007 and is now 61.
Research shows that food deserts – or areas where fresh, healthy food is hard to find – are more common in minority neighbourhoods. Furthermore, black children are three times more likely to live in a food-insecure household than white children, according to the nonprofit Feeding America.
“When we talk about health disparities, people sometimes say we blame someone. But it’s not a question of blame, it’s a fact. This is where we are,” adds Moore.
The effect of racism on health
Racism can play a role, too. Studies show that both the interpersonal and structural distinctions linked to poor health outcomes among black Americans. One reason relates to the “chronic stress burden” caused by racism, says Michael D. Brown, MD, chair of the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Maryland College Park, whose research focuses on high blood pressure, vascular health, and exercise in Africa. Americans.
Scientists say that when the human body experiences severe stress, it releases hormones and neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, epinephrine and cortisol. Repeated release of these substances can lead to secondary effects such as high blood pressure. Stress can also trigger inflammation, which has been linked to a higher risk of stroke.
“What is so unique to blacks in this country — perhaps not unique, but it is persistent and pervasive — is the kind of racial stress, the perceived stress of racial discrimination and marginalization that blacks in this country endure daily,” Brown says. “It’s always there, it doesn’t have to be real. There’s this heightened awareness because we’re always anticipating where the next thing is coming from.”
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